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An apparent salmonella outbreak at a resort in Jamaica has ruined vacations for potentially dozens of holiday travelers, including those who booked their trips before the coronavirus lockdowns began, The Post has learned.
“It was a nightmare,” Chantel Ele of Lincoln, Nebraska told The Post of his experience, echoed by other people online, including some claims of hospitalizations. “I don’t know how many people go on an all-inclusive vacation and lose weight.”
Ele and her husband Justin secured their room at the 537-room Grand Palladium Resort and Spa in February before the pandemic hit. The palatial beachside resort boasts 11 restaurants, 17 bars and “one of the largest swimming pools in the Caribbean, surrounded by majestic landscapes.”
But the island getaway dissolved into severe stomach and body cramps and diarrhea within two days of their arrival on Dec. 13 — tethering them to a bathroom at all times, Justin told The Post.
Similarly, Aaron Sutton and his fiancé, who live in Pittsburgh, squeezed in about 48 hours of fun before they were both felled by unrelenting diarrhea and vomiting on Dec. 14. The couple got engaged in Jamaica a year earlier and held onto their $4,000 honeymoon trip to the Palladium resort in December — despite being forced to postpone their wedding.
“My fiancé was so weak and feverish, she could barely stand up,” Sutton told The Post.
Iwaspoisoned.com, a platform that tracks food borne illnesses, has tallied dozens of people and their families who have reported becoming ill at the resort in December across multiple websites, including the property’s Facebook page and travel websites TripAdvisor, Orbitz, Booking.com, founder Patrick Quade told The Post.
“We have never seen an outbreak this size in the past for Jamaica,” he said.
The hotel is owned by the Palladium Hotel Group, a privately held Spanish hotel company that operates more than 50 properties in six countries, including Fiesta Hotels & Resorts and Hard Rock Hotel & Resorts, which didn’t respond to multiple emails from The Post. The Jamaican Health Ministry also did not respond to queries from The Post.
The hotel’s general manager, however, has offered online apologies to guests who complained publicly about their ordeal and has said “the situation” was being investigated.
“We sincerely apologize for the experience and assure you that we will share your concerns with our food and beverage and accommodations management team so that they can follow up and take actions accordingly!” wrote Enrico Pezzoli in response to Justin Ele’s poor review on TripAdvisor last month.
Sutton, 40, is considering taking legal action to “at least get my money back,” he told The Post. Others have reached out to prominent food safety law firm Marler Clark.
“My staff is looking into whether we can get jurisdiction over them in U.S. courts,” Bill Marler told The Post.
Both Sutton and his fiancé visited doctors in the states and were told they had salmonella, while his fiancé was also told she had “acute kidney damage” due to dehydration.
“Our guts are still not back to normal,” Sutton said.
Sutton says the resort did little to help them when they visited the hotel nurse on Dec. 15, asking them only to fill out forms about COVID-19. “I told her we were there to report food poisoning,” Sutton, who has worked as an EMT, told The Post. “The paperwork looked like something a lawyer had cooked up to get us to quarantine there for another two weeks,” he added.
The couple stormed out of the nurse’s office without completing the forms, Sutton said. By Dec. 16, they had switched their flights, cutting their trip short by two days. His fiancé needed the assistance of a wheelchair to get around the airports, he said.
Lexie Confer, 22, of Cleveland, Oh. and her boyfriend, were also still nursing weak digestive systems on Dec. 30 after returning from their week-long stay at the Palladium on Dec. 19. Her boyfriend, Nathan, was also informed by a doctor here that he had contracted salmonella.
But they consider themselves one of the lucky ones. “We spoke with other guests on the airplane and learned that five people from their group were hospitalized,” Confer said.
The outbreak comes at a time when food-borne illnesses have been on the decline in part because fewer people are eating in restaurants and more people are practicing better hygiene, said Hal King, founder of Public Health Innovations, a consulting firm.
There is still risk, however, that the outbreak could spread to the US and other places where the resort’s guests live, Marler, the lawyer, said. In a handful of cases, up to 5 percent of the people who contract salmonella, including those who have recovered from it, can still spread it to others when they return home to their communities, Marler said.
“These types of cases crop up all the time at resorts,” Maler said, adding that it’s not common to have such a widespread outbreak.
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