Five members of a Camp Springs family have been hospitalized during the last seven days at Southern Maryland Hospital Center with salmonella poisoning, according to one of the patients and a hospital official.
Janet Hawkins, 43, said that she and her husband Dean, 32, her daughter Lisa Gaither, 21, of Forestville, her son Christopher Hawkins, 5, and her grandson Sergio Gaither, 5 months, all became ill on Sept. 8.
Hawkins, interviewed over the telephone from her hospital bed, said that the family had eaten at a self-service breakfast bar at Bob's Big Boy Restaurant at 4921 Allentown Rd. in Camp Springs that morning. That afternoon, her husband and son began to complain of headaches, diarrhea and vomiting, Hawkins said.
Health officials visited the Big Boy Restaurant last Friday and gave it a clean bill of health, according to Robert T. Sowers, a spokesman for the Marriott Corp., which runs the restaurant.
"My husband started [getting sick] at about 2 p.m. on Sunday [Sept. 8]," Janet Hawkins said. "Then my daughter, who is married and lives away from home, called and asked if anyone else was feeling bad."
Over the next several days, she said, they were all hospitalized and diagnosed as suffering from salmonella poisoning.
Salmonella is a bacterial disease that produces a variety of infections in animals and humans that can result in blood poisoning or intestinal inflammation.
Sebastian L. Suriani, the executive vice president of Southern Maryland Hospital, said there have been "maybe two other" cases of salmonella diagnosed at the hospital in recent days aside from the Hawkinses, but that there is no way of knowing what caused any of the occurrences.
"We're trying to put all the pieces together," said Robert Sparks, the chief of the county health department's communicable disease division. He said he doesn't have "any clear idea" how extensive the occurrences are.
Sowers, the Marriott spokesman, said yesterday, "We have heard that this [salmonella poisoning] is a possibility, but we haven't heard it from the Board of Health."
Marriott is conducting an independent investigation into the matter, Sowers said, which will involve inspecting foodstuffs at the restaurant and checking its surfaces for cleanliness.