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County exec says sick employee caused outbreak; state less sure

The top official in Estill County Kentucky says a sick restaurant employee caused a Salmonella outbreak that sickened 83, but state officials say the root cause remains unknown.

Eagles Roost Sports Bar, Irvine, Ken.

Wallace Taylor, executive judge for Estill County, said Tuesday he “is being told it was narrowed down to an employee” at the Eagles Roost restaurant and bar in Irvine, KY. “Maybe the state just doesn’t want to say yet,” Taylor said.

Officials with the Estill County health department have not responded to requests for comment on whether a restaurant worker is the outbreak vector. The department does not have any information about the outbreak on its website and has not posted an outbreak update on its Facebook page since Feb. 17.

However, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services said while state investigators do not believe there is an ongoing risk to the public, “no source for the Salmonella has been identified.”

The state health agency reports 83 cases of Salmonella infections have been confirmed by laboratory cultures or met the case definition for the outbreak in Estill County. The most recent illness began Feb. 10. Thirteen of the victims required hospitalization.

The county’s top elected official, Wallace, said he believes his son was among those sickened in the outbreak. He said his family and many others in the area frequently dine at the implicated restaurant, which opened in recent months.

“I ate there (the Eagles Roost) with my family on a Friday evening and Monday morning my son went to the hospital,” Wallace said. “They never tested him, though.”

Wallace said he believes many of the sick people weren’t tested for Salmonella, which complicated the outbreak investigation.

“It took a long time to find a common denominator,” Wallace said. “There were a wide variety of foods with different ingredients. It was pretty much everything on the menu.

“The state even tested the ice (at the restaurant) and checked food suppliers. We even considered possible sabotage.”

Wallace said the Eagles Roost owner cooperated completely with the investigation, voluntarily closing and cleaning the establishment. Wallace said the restaurant has reopened.

During a recent inspection by county health inspectors, the Eagles Roost scored 98 out of 100, despite having six violations that included failure to maintain an adequate temperature for the dish washing machine and allowing frozen poultry items to thaw at room temperature.

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