CASPER, Wyo. — The Golden Corral restaurant in east Casper is closed until at least dinnertime Friday after a suspected foodborne virus outbreak at the location affected more than 150 people, according to David Giesen, president of franchisee Golden DBL Inc. of Denver.
The restaurant was closed Thursday afternoon. Giesen said the shutdown is voluntary while staff members clean and disinfect the restaurant and the Natrona County Health Department continues its investigation.
Natrona County Health Department Director Bob Harrington said Thursday that 167 people have reported being ill after eating at the restaurant this past week.
Harrington said health department officials are interviewing Golden Corral employees as part of their investigation, trying to nail down whether the restaurant is the cause of the norovirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, he said the restaurant is conducting a top-to-bottom cleaning and disinfection.
Harrington said department officials will return Friday to conduct a final inspection so the restaurant can open for dinner.
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“I have no reason not to believe everything will be OK, because the darn thing is invisible,” Harrington said.
The Wyoming Department of Health collected stool samples and reviewed emergency room reports of at least 30 people during its investigation, said state Epidemiologist Dr. Tracy Murphy.
The agency will never identify a particular food, Harrington said. But the conclusion is that the evidence points to the restaurant, he said.
Murphy said a number of Casper residents have had the flulike symptoms associated with the norovirus, but in the past week there has been a stark jump in the numbers.
The numbers suggest an association with the restaurant, he said, but it’s impossible to confirm how many of the ill are associated with Golden Corral.
“Every year we see quite a few outbreaks of (norovirus) associated with eating facilities,” Murphy said. “It’s not uncommon. We see it a lot. It may not be anything a restaurant has done wrong. It could be sick people contaminating the restaurant.”