184 sickened after eating at a San Antonio Pasha Mediterranean Grill, officials say
A total of 184 people have reported symptoms of foodborne illness, seven of whom have been hospitalized, after eating at a Northwest Side restaurant over the weekend, according to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.
The people had eaten at Pasha Mediterranean Grill on Wurzbach Road between Friday and Sunday, health officials said.
Metro Health spokeswoman Carol Schliesinger said the agency is investigating the restaurant, which is cooperating fully. “They’ve been very collaborative with their response,” she said.
Officials so far suspect that the illness is the result of salmonella-associated bacteria, but the investigation is not complete. The source of the bacteria has not been discovered.
The restaurant and Metro Health staff also are working together on precautionary measures to prevent future cases.
Schliesinger said numerous calls came in Tuesday, after the Labor Day weekend. At midafternoon Thursday, Metro Health was reporting that more than 60 people were showing symptoms. At that time, the agency asked people to call if they thought they were ill.
The number more than tripled by Thursday evening, reaching the 184 total.
Schliesinger said that number may continue to grow as Metro Health continues to handle calls.
It can take one or two days for people to start having symptoms from a foodborne illness. Common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps and vomiting, but symptoms may vary by person.
Pasha part-owner Kamran Vandi said, “We are still shocked ourselves.” He added that, “We don’t know what happened,” but that the restaurant has been working with Metro Health inspectors since Tuesday.
The inspectors have been at the restaurant daily, working with staff to correct any problems in the kitchen and to educate the employees.
Vandi said two of his employees are being tested by the department as part of the investigation. He is allowing them the time off they need until they receive clearance to return.
“We’re working with people. We hope nothing happens to anybody,” Vandi said.
He and his staff are taking additional steps, such as eating the same food they serve during lunch and dinner.
“We will do whatever is possible to make sure people trust us,” Vandi said.
He said that with all the traffic that goes through the restaurant, it’s not surprising that an illness may have spread.
He added that he knows several people who have not been at the restaurant, including his two daughters, who have fallen ill with a stomach virus that causes similar symptoms.
Vandi said Thursday that he had closed the restaurant Monday after a lightning strike shorted out the refrigerator Sunday night.
“It wasn’t on the right temperature, so we had to close (the restaurant) to be on the safe side,” Vandi said. “It was some bad luck.”
Schliesinger said both dine-in and takeout services had been affected.
Metro Health is encouraging recent Pasha customers with any symptoms to speak with health officials. Customers can call Metro Health at 210-207-8876.
In order to prevent gastrointestinal illness, Metro Health recommends following proper hand-washing techniques, including before eating or preparing food, while caring for sick people and after using the restroom or changing diapers.
Metro Health inspected Pasha in May. At that time, the restaurant received a score of 78 out of 100. Some violations included black residue in the ice machine, lack of a certified food protection manager, food kept without expiration dates, hand-washing water that was too cold and failure to state “employees must wash hands” in the restrooms.
Before that inspection, Pasha had received scores of 90 or higher on all inspections dating back to 2014.
Vandi and Schliesinger confirmed that no illnesses have been reported at any of Pasha’s three other locations.
Jacob Beltran is a reporter covering crime in San Antonio and Bexar County. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | | Twitter: @JBfromSA