Final report shows those who were sick at New Theatre had 2 types of illnesses

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CONCORDIA, Mo. -- Hundreds of people say they got sick after attending a Johnson County dinner theater in January. Now months later, FOX 4 has obtained the final report detailing the investigation by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment into what happened that caused hundreds to complain of a similar illness after a night at the New Theatre.

“First few years of teaching, you end up getting everything the kids have. Everything,” said Nancy Gilbertson.

Gilbertson doesn`t get sick very often these days, so when the retired teacher was so sick she needed to go to the emergency room, her family was concerned.

“I had a couple rough days, but you know- it could have been so many things from there, that I`m not blaming them,” said Gilbertson.

But Gilbertson is still a fan of the New Theatre, even though she knows she was part of the group of hundreds who complained of similar symptoms after eating there in January.

“I really do not blame them in any way. It`s just one of those things that happens,” she said.

A final report detailing the investigation into the widespread illnesses, however, shows there were some things that New Theatre employees did that could have led to an outbreak of both a new to Kansas strain of norovirus called Kawasaki, and Clostridium Perfrigens, a common foodborne illness.

The report shows the norovirus could have been spread by employees who were already sick- and handling food like the bread, salad, and ranch dressing. The C. Perfrigens was found to be associated with the poppyseed dressing and burnt ends- improper temperature settings may have led to that bacteria spreading.

However, the report doesn`t rule out the possibility that a patron brought in the norovirus and spread it through going through the buffet line. No matter what, Gilbertson says sometimes this stuff just happens.

“We`ve had season tickets there for 15 years, more than 15 years actually and we just renewed them again, and it hasn`t changed anything about the way I feel about the place. Just absolutely love it,” said Gilbertson.

In an early investigation, seven total food handling violations were found, but they were fixed right away. The staff at the New Theatre then deep-cleaned the facility, and later after more reports of illness- a professional cleaning crew cleaned the facility again.

In April, another inspection revealed the New Theatre restaurant was in full compliance with all guidelines.