Haleiwa restaurant part of suspected Norovirus outbreak investigation

Cholos restaurant.
Cholos restaurant.
Dr. Sarah Park
Dr. Sarah Park

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HALEIWA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Health is working to pinpoint the source of a gastrointestinal illness that left dozens of people with severe stomach pain and nausea this week.

The number of cases now stands at 42. Health officials say one case has already come back positive for Norovirus, and those stricken were at one particular restaurant in Haleiwa over the weekend.

Bicycling enthusiast Andrew Tanaka was among those who participated in the 62-mile Haleiwa Century Ride on Oahu's North Shore Sunday.

The next day, he and some other cyclists started suffering symptoms consistent with Norwalk or Norovirus -- abdominal pain, hot flashes, vomiting and diarrhea.

"Initially, I was like maybe it was from the, a lot of people thought it was from the ride," Tanaka said. "But I hadn't eaten or drank anything from the aid stations."

After the ride, Tanaka went with his bike team to Cholo's Mexican restaurant and enjoyed steak quesadillas. That may be where he picked up the virus.

State health officials say there are now 42 similar cases reported, and it appears those stricken either ate at or are employees of Cholo's. But that doesn't necessarily mean the virus originated there.

"Just takes one person who's infected and doesn't wash their hands very well and then contaminates surfaces or food products and then passing it on to another," Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, said. "So this restaurant, unfortunately, probably was the recipient of one of these folks."

The health department says its sanitation crews inspected the eatery and did not find any violations.

"The restaurant proactively volunteered to close down and clean their premises because they really didn't, just thinking that they might be part of something," Park said. "Even before we even had a lot of cases, they wanted to be proactive."

Health officials sent out an alert to all physicians to be on the lookout for similar cases. They say young children, the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems may take longer to recover.

"I went almost three days without eating at all," Tanaka said. "So it kind of, it made me really think about where I want to eat my next meal and it wasn't out."

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