Wake County health officials are trying to trace the source of more than eight possible cases of food-borne illness reported April 17, which may be connected to Evoo, a Mediterranean restaurant in Raleigh's Five Points.
"We are currently investigating some reports of sickness," said André Pierce, director of the environmental health and safety division of the county's environmental services department. "The investigation is ongoing and we don't have any results yet."
Because epidemiologists had not yet identified the bacteria, virus or other agent that may have caused the illness, Pierce declined to speculate on any commonalities between the victims, including a restaurant where they may all have eaten.
"Typically we don't implicate a facility until we have confirmation of lab results," Pierce said.
However, shortly before 10 p.m., the Raleigh-Wake 911 Center received an emergency call reporting that someone was ill at Evoo at 2519 Fairview Road, said Walt Fuller, the center's deputy director in charge of operations.
One paramedic unit was dispatched at 9:50 p.m. and called for backup upon arriving at the scene, Fuller said. A second paramedic unit, a quick responder vehicle and a fire engine all responded. In all, nine rescuers attended victims at the restaurant.
The paramedic units transported an unknown number of victims to Duke Health Raleigh, Fuller said.
In a possibly related incident, a second 911 call about sick persons, which came in at about 10:15 p.m., summoned two more ambulances and a district supervisor to the 1000 block of Vance Street nearby. Two people were taken to Wake Medical Center from that address, Fuller said.
Pierce, whose department is responsible for inspecting the 1,800 licensed restaurants in Wake County, said as far as he knew Evoo remained open Tuesday. However, no one was answering the restaurant's phone Tuesday afternoon.
Past inspection reports on file with the county (read them at wake.digitalhealthdepartment.com) show that the restaurant, owned by chef Jean Paul Fontaine, has struggled with cleanliness issues in the last two years.
The most recent report, dated March 20, noted two "critical violation risk factors": unsanitary food contact surfaces, including dirty utensils, and improper holding temperatures for cold foods.
Statewide health regulations list 18 factors that are given highest priority in inspections, Pierce said.
"These are those items we know are more likely to contribute to food-borne illnesses," he said.
Evoo received a score of 92.5 out of 100 possible points in last month's inspection, despite the deductions for the two critical violations.
On Nov. 20, 2008, inspectors cited one critical violation pertaining to food storage; raw oysters were being kept over ready-to-eat items in the walk-in cooler.
Two months earlier, on Sept. 4, 2008, the restaurant was cited for the same two categories of critical violations as the March 2009 report.
Evoo received a 94.5 score in both September and November inspections.