The Dickson restaurant involved with the recent outbreak of salmonella is keen to reopen after one of the widest spates of food poisoning in the capital’s history.
The outbreak, which has affected 140 people and hospitalised 15, has been pinpointed to mayonnaise used in the potato salad at The Copa Brazilian Churrasco over the weekend. The set price all-you-can-eat meat and side dishes meant almost all diners were exposed to the bacteria.
However, ACT Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said the establishment could reopen within days.
"Now we’ve really pinpointed the problem, we can work with them towards [reopening] in the coming days," he said.
"There are still a few issues to sort through but they’re keen to open and we’re keen for them to open as well once we’ve sorted out these issues.”
Dr Kelly said homemade mayonnaise, made using raw eggs, was “really coming up as a problem”.
“There are products on the market that pasteurise eggs," he said.
"That may lead to a slightly less foodie answer to the problem, but it’s certainly safer.”
Dr Kelly said ACT Health had not recorded any further cases overnight, but some patients remained in hospital.
“This illness can last for up to a week,” he said.
“We haven’t had any more cases arrive in hospital overnight, but we are still continuing with our investigation and talking to the restaurant to sort out what we can do to prevent it in the future.”
A spokesman for the establishment confirmed plans to reopen, adding that a further statement would be issued within coming days. He said no additional comment would be made until then.
Both critics and supporters have taken to the establishment’s Facebook page, some of which have posted comments calling for refunds for affected diners as well as a formal apology.
There have also been accusations that the restaurant has been deleting comments from the page, prompting the page facilitators to post “we will not tolerate racist or offensive remarks being posted on this page”.
“We wish all those affected by the outbreak a speedy recovery back to full health,” they said.
A family's pain
Marcelo Solar cannot describe the pain he has been in for the past three days with salmonella poisoning but his wife can - she says the gastric cramps are on par with childbirth, but that only lasted hours, not four days and counting.
Mr Solar and his family fell ill after dining at the Dickson restaurant on Sunday night to celebrate Mother's Day. Of the nine at their table, eight were infected.
It was Mr Solar's daughter who first fell ill. His wife rushed her to hospital on Monday, suspecting appendicitis.
He left work to join his wife by their daughter's bedside later that afternoon and by the evening all three were battling headaches, fevers and cramping.
''You read the word salmonella poisoning but you don't really get a gist of just how bad it is. The suffering it gives you is incredible, the pain is horrible. I've never had any pain like this before in my life,'' Mr Solar said.
With Calvary Hospital overflowing, they took the option to go home and "ride it out". By the next evening he had taken his daughter back but he and his wife continued to battle through at home.
"After a couple of days of it, my wife just couldn't bear it any longer and I was feeling the pain myself pretty badly, so we ended up coming in [Wednesday] night about 11pm," Mr Solar said.
"Those 2½ days at home were just horrific. We both couldn't imagine a worse time.
''We have an en suite and that was far enough for us [to walk] … unfortunately the best way to deal with this is to drink fluids and when you drink fluids it actually can
generate strong gastric pain and then diarrhoea. There was basically a routine of one off, one on really," he said from the hospital, where he has been provided with a sofa because of a shortage of beds.
The Solars, with the other salmonella patients, are separated from the rest of the hospital to prevent cross-contamination, and while he has only praise for the way Calvary has handled the crisis, the toilet situation there is difficult.
"You literally have to take it when it's open around here," he said.
They have not eaten since Sunday night, and when their appetites do return, the family do not know how trusting they will be. "You build up a bit of paranoia … my wife and I can't see us going to a restaurant for some time," he said.
And there is the week off work.
"Some people [are] on visas and have to pay for all their medical costs," Mr Solar said.
"My daughter is just a casual - she's lost all her work this week … my wife has a salon, she's had to deal with that. I'm the principal at an architectural practice and it's a big deal for me to be away from work for a week."
Mr Solar also wants to know why the restaurant was open on Sunday when it was experiencing the same exhaust issues that forced its early closure on Saturday night.
A separate, unrelated outbreak of gastroenteritis from a southside restaurant on Mother's Day has affected more than 60 people, but none were hospitalised.
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