Plumbing issue may have led to illnesses at Dunkin Donuts in Monroe

MONROE, NC (WBTV) - WBTV is learning more about a new Monroe Dunkin' Donuts, accused of sickening a dozen of people with gastrointestinal illnesses.

The Dunkin' Donuts on West Roosevelt Boulevard opened the 31st of January and health officials are saying backed up sewage in the building's pipes on opening day caused the illnesses.

"We would walk over several times a day, maybe three times a week," said customer Jennifer Lingerfelt.

Lingerfelt works just a couple of doors down from the Dunkin' Donuts that Union County and State Health Officials say is responsible for sickening at least 12 people with gastrointestinal illnesses.

"I was a little shocked. I've been there several times," said customer Robin Helms.

Health Officials say of the 12 sick, six are employees and 6 are family members of those employees.

Officials say the illnesses started to occur back on February 10th.

The most common symptoms reported are diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

"I noticed this morning that not many people are over there, but it is surprising they're still open during the investigation," said Lingerfelt.

Health officials say an anonymous caller informed them of the situation.

Other than a backed-up plumping system, officials haven't been able to identify exactly what is causing the outbreak.

So, why is the restaurant still open?

WBTV took that question to County health officials.

"They (Dunkin' Donuts) have taken all of the appropriate precautions to clean the place at this point. That's why they're still open, they've taken those steps," said Union County Human Services Executive Director Richard Matens.

Still, that doesn't mean peace of mind for some.

"Just not knowing, you know. I've eaten over there maybe 5 to 6 times and luckily nothing has happened to me," said Helms.

The investigation is still ongoing and in its early stages.

Health officials would not say if that anonymous caller was an employee or a customer.

Investigators say Dunkin' Donuts officials are cooperating, although there were some missteps on the company's behalf before Health Officials were notified.

A Dunkin' Donuts spokesperson tells WBTV they've hired an outside cleaning company to come in for extra sanitation.

People who became ill with gastrointestinal illness after visiting or consuming food or drink from the Dunkin Donuts in Monroe since January 31st, or ill close contacts of employees, should contact their medical provider and Union County Division of Public Health.

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