The number of people saying they were affected by an illness stemming from a visit to Margarita's restaurant in Holland is growing at a surprising rate.
According to the Ottawa County Health Department, it now stands at around 200 possible cases.
Reports started coming in last Thursday of patrons who were experiencing nausea and vomiting among other symptoms.
The restaurant closed this weekend for cleaning and since then, the health department has been collecting samples from people who were sick to try to find out just what caused the illness. Tuesday, the health department confirmed the cause of the illness to be Norovirus.
Monday, Margarita's remained locked and closed at the suggestion of the Health Department, we talked to the owner who says he's very anxious to re-open.
"I'm frustrated, but at the same time, taking it one day at a time," says Alonzo Salinas, Margarita's Owner.
Every day that Salinas waits is a day he's losing money along with his employees. He says not only are they losing business from regular patrons, but also he's lost catering jobs because he needs to use the restaurant's kitchen for those as well.
"There's not really a whole lot we can do to kind of, you know, make it our opening quicker," says Salinas. "I guess we need to wait and see what the results say."
He's talking about lab test results from samples given to Holland Hospital and the Michigan Department of Community Health that hopefully will tell exactly what caused around 150 people to report they've gotten sick. The Health Department is still working on confirming a number of those cases.
Health Department Communication Specialist Shannon Felgner says they want to know if it's a Norovirus from an employee or patron, or something in the food preparation that caused a gastrointestinal illness, also known as a GI bug.
"We certainly don't want to re-open if we suspect this illness will continue," Shannon Felgner, Communications Specialist with the Ottawa County Health Department.
Felgner says they are also still interviewing people who reported symptoms.
"We are now continuing to contact those who have reported being ill." says Felgner. "Trying to identify a common source of illness."
Salinas says he's turning to a higher power to speed things along.
"We just are praying everything is going to work out and you know God is going to help us see through this," says Salinas.
Some patrons say they're also eager for this restaurant to re-open.
"I want them to re-open soon, I'm hungry," says Rodney Stiegmann, long-time restaurant patron.
Stiegmann and his wife showed up at Margarita's Monday for their favorite fajita plate, only to find it locked.
"It's a really good place to eat and they didn't do anything intentionally," says Stiegmann. "Everybody
makes mistakes so why not try it and see if it's still good."
The health department is urging those who have eaten at the restaurant and feel as if they had symptoms to contact the Ottawa County Health Department.
Felgner says, "If there's anyone out there that has the gastrointestinal symptoms and did eat at the restaurant, margaritas in the past week, they can contact the Ottawa County Health Department at 616-393-5645 for more information so that we can get details on their symptoms."
You can also find out more information on symptoms associated with the illness online at www.miOttawa.org/health.