Health Dept. says 60+ became sick from clams

Photo Credit: file photo

An update to the Hinerwadel's illness story that CNY Central first reported Tuesday.

According to the Onondaga County Health Department, approximately 60 people became sick with gastrointestinal problems from Campylobacter, a bacterial infection, after eating at Hinerwadel's Grove on September 15. Camplyobacter can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever.

The department says that calls have decreased, and they do not expect a significant jump in reported cases from the current total. They do say, however, that if anyone ate at Hinerwadel's on September 15 and becomes sick they should contact the Health Department at 315-435-6607.

Previous coverage:

Onondaga County's Health Department confirms several people who were at a big clambake at Hinerwadel's Grove clambake facility in North Syracuse last month have a bacterial infection.

Health Department Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Morrow is asking anyone who went to the CNY Builders' Exchange clambake on September 15th and has gastrointestinal problems to call a doctor and also give them a call at 315-435-6607. A check of the hotline late Tuesday evening indicated calls are coming in, however testing will have to be done to confirm more actual cases. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever. Generally they start 2 - 5 days after eating contaminated food, but sometimes up to ten days later, and the symptoms can last up to two weeks.

At her news conference Tuesday morning, Dr. Morrow said the food handling process at Hinerwadel's is not suspect, and raw clams brought in from Maine may be the cause of the outbreak.

Vicky Hinerwadel, the fourth generation owner of the 96-year-old North Syracuse business, says she is devastated by the news of the outbreak. "I don't take this lightly, by any means," she told us.

Hinerwadel's had an outbreak two years ago, also believed connected to raw clams from Maine, and at that time tightened up seafood supervision, adding staff and checks. Now, she says they'll seriously consider taking raw clams off the menu. "We can't keep going through this," she says.Raw clams are popular. The September 15th clambake was Hinerwadel's largest of the year, with 3,800 people attending. They served 20,000 raw clams.

"Raw seafood is a risky business," says Hinerwadel, "but people love it." She has big yellow signs posted, that warn of the dangers. Commissioner Morrow says the bacteria is killed by cooking, and steamed clams are a lot safer.

This outbreak comes as Onondaga County is looking at a major increase in Campylobacter cases. There have been more than 70 this year compared to 30 at the same time last year. But, Dr. Morrow says almost all the rest are from poultry contamination in home cooking, which is more common than shellfish problems.