SAN ANTONIO – The amount of people reporting getting sick at the Wurzbach Road location of Pasha Mediterranean Grill has increased.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District released the latest figures Friday afternoon, showing 255 reports of people getting ill, far more than the initial estimate of 60-plus cases since Sept. 5. Twelve people have been hospitalized.
One person has already filed a lawsuit against the restaurant. The plaintiff seeks monetary relief of $200,000 but not exceeding $1 million, the lawsuit states.
Officials said they have laboratory evidence of salmonella for 14 of the 255 people. Others are still being tested.
Metro Health reports it has received at least 200 calls so far and more are expected from those who believe they may have been affected. They are being urged to call 311 to report their illness so that Metro Health can confirm and track those cases. They’re also advised to seek medical treatment as soon as possible to avoid becoming dehydrated and having to go to the hospital.
The medical community is being told to test for salmonella if their patients complain of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
VIDEO: Couple claims they got sick after eating at Pasha under investigating for salmonella outbreak
Rick and Laura Vance said they believe they were affected by the salmonella outbreak after visiting the establishment.
“I had to literally pull over and go to the bathroom at a couple of fast food restaurants,” Rick Vance said. “Then I got home, and I was, like, ‘Babe, I don’t know — my stomach has been acting strange."
Rick Vance said his wife had similar symptoms.
“(Laura) just couldn’t get in enough fluid for what was coming out. But the great thing is that we didn't get the nausea. We didn't get the vomiting. So we were blessed because that would have put her in the hospital. It scared us and scared me to death with her being over 31 weeks (pregnant)," Rick Vance said. "Dehydration would put her in pre-term labor."
Dr. Colleen Bridger, Metro Health director, said although the agency knows that salmonella is the culprit, “We don’t know where it came from, food handlers, or whether it came from the food that was being served or both."
She said salmonella bacteria is the result of food that is not properly stored, prepared or served at the right temperature. She said it also can be spread if the food handler or server is sick and doesn’t properly wash their hands.
Bridger said her inspectors have been at the restaurant every day this week, working with the restaurant management and its staff.
“The restaurant has been extremely willing to work with us,” Bridger said. “They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
After it was found the restaurant’s refrigeration wasn’t cold enough, she said, it were closed briefly until refrigerators reached the proper temperature.
Bilal Deiri, Pasha’s director of operations, said, inspectors have been “walking us through the process, advising us what all we should do, how to handle everything.”
He said none of their three other locations experienced any problems, and this is the first time in the restaurant’s 10-year history that this has come up.
Deiri said he and other employees are eating the food they prepare to see what effect it will have, but so far, he said, everyone’s fine.
Deiri said he is still very concerned about the welfare of those who fell ill after eating at the Wurzbach location.
Bridger said Metro Health’s job is to reduce the risk to the establishment and “get them through this as quickly as possible to avoid more people from getting sick.”
“I think that it might just have to do with the training and having people trained a little bit better and passing their inspections," Rick Vance said.
“I probably wouldn't go back unless they definitely did something about those violations and they passed with soaring colors, but even then, you are kind of, like, 'Do I really want to make that gamble?' The food was good, but it is never worth it if you are sick for a week after,” Laura Vance said.
For more information on salmonella, click here to visit the CDC website.