Probe into Western Hotel after mystery illness outbreak

UNDER INVESTIGATION: Health authorities are working with staff at the Western Hotel after a mystery gastro-like illness hit mourners at a recent funeral. Picture: Lachlan Bence
UNDER INVESTIGATION: Health authorities are working with staff at the Western Hotel after a mystery gastro-like illness hit mourners at a recent funeral. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Mourners at a Ballarat funeral have been left with debilitating gastro-like symptoms after attending a wake at a popular hotel earlier this month.

The City of Ballarat and Department of Health and Human Services are investigating after dozens of mourners, some of them elderly, were struck down with violent stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea after attending the wake on Friday, January 5 at the Western Hotel in Sturt Street.

Two of the mourners were hospitalised due to the severity of their symptoms. Other guests were bed-ridden for up to four days suffering from chronic symptoms including headaches, stomach cramps, hot and cold sweats, nausea and lethargy.

The age of those affected ranged from late 20s to 60 years.

Mourners, some who travelled from various parts of Australia to attend the funeral, have been contacted by health authorities and have provided stool samples as part of the investigation.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesman has confirmed an investigation into the outbreak at the hotel.

“As part of an ongoing investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services is working closely with the City of Ballarat to determine the cause of gastroenteritis affecting a number of people who attended an event at the Western Hotel earlier this month,” the spokesman said.

He confirmed the department had identified 24 people so far who are reported to be ill.

However, the true figure could be as high as 40.

The Department of Health and Human Services spokesman made a reassurance there was no ongoing risk to the public as there had already been a comprehensive clean-up of the restaurant.

“Food samples have been collected for testing and the investigation into the cause of the outbreak is ongoing,” the spokesman said.

Owner/manager of the Western Hotel, Dan Cronin, said he and staff at the Sturt Street business were working closely with health authorities in the ongoing investigation.

“We are working hand-in-hand with the department … we have been an open book and have given (DHHS staff) full access to the hotel,” Mr Cronin said.

Mr Cronin admitted the outbreak occurred at the hotel, but stressed there was no ongoing risk to patrons as it was an isolated incident, was not food-related and the restaurant had been thoroughly cleaned since the January 5 outbreak.

“Yes, there has been an outbreak of gastro here, but there is no ongoing risk (to hotel patrons), as it wasn’t food-related,” Mr Cronin said.

“While the investigation is ongoing, it is believed (the gastro infection) was brought in by someone at the funeral.”