When John Snow traced the London cholera epidemic of 1854 to a local well, he removed the pump handle so all would know the source of the fatal disease when it ceased to plague the city. Removing that pump handle is still remembered today because it represented public health’s first major victory. But it seems this act would be illegal today in Connecticut. Here’s the story: Both the Orange, CT Health Department and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have declined to tell NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, a local affiliate, if a closed restaurant was responsible for sickening a local resident with Salmonella. Karan Niazi blames three slices of chicken pizza he consumed at Oregano Joe’s on Boston Post Road in Orange for his illness, which included a 104-degree fever, extreme diarrhea and vomiting. He spent almost a week in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and was told by one of his doctors he was suffering from a severe case of Salmonella. Another patient at the hospital with the same Salmonella symptoms reportedly also ate at Oregano Joe’s. NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters reports that the restaurant was closed twice by the Orange Health Department, once on May 30 for one day and then again on June 20 for five weeks. However, the local health department won’t say why it closed the establishment and won’t say if there is a link between the illnesses and the restaurant closures. Both the local and state health departments say state law prevents them from sharing the information they have with the public. The Troubleshooters investigation did find one local police report made when the restaurant owner needed access to the business while it was closed. The local police report quoted the owner as saying his eatery was shut down ‘due to multiple confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning.'” Niazi also filed a lawsuit, and the TV report says court documents show Oregano’s was closed down for “falsified employee stool samples” during the investigation. Law Professor John Thomas, who teaches healthcare law at Quinnipiac University, says officials are “completely wrong” in the way they are interrupting state statutes on privacy and confidentiality of records. “I believe that both the Orange town health department, its lawyers, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) have erred in their interpretation of the governing statute,” Professor Thomas told Food Safety News. “As the Connecticut Supreme Court observed in the 1999 in the definitive case of Babcock v. Bridgeport hospital, the exemption from public disclosure only applies to ‘the designated materials…that are generated primarily for the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality, undertaken specifically for the purpose of reducing the incidence of patient deaths.’ “The City of Orange data at issue in this case were not voiced in the context of a study for ‘the purpose of the study of morbidity and mortality.’ As a result, any claims that the records at issue are confidential are mistaken,” Thomas says. He says it “remains a mystery” as to why the state’s elected officials have sided with health officials in the current narrow interpretation. “Every state legislature and the relevant administrative agencies weigh the public’s interest in knowing about health risks against the disruption in the health treatment and evaluative process that revelation of health risks will cause,” he added. Food Safety News also invited William Gerrish, director of communications and government relations for Connecticut’s Department of Public Health, to comment on the restrictive policy, but he did not respond to the invitation.