Last week, several students in Tank Co-op began reporting flu-like symptoms, prompting the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association to close the co-op for further inspection. In a statement, OSCA President Dylan Rees said, “Those who were ill have made a full recovery, and no additional cases of illness have been reported.”
“OSCA staff and members of Tank are continuing to take all necessary precautions to prevent further illness,” Rees wrote. Rees’s statement also said that the Lorain County Health Department believed OSCA handled the situation “quickly and effectively.”
The illness outbreak occurred shortly after Dorothy Kloos, a Registered Sanitarian for the Lorain County General Health District, gave an unfavorable review of Tank after inspecting it on Feb. 14. In the report, Kloos wrote that during interim, a time when tasks at the co-op are yet to be assigned, “students that volunteered were not adequately trained by OSCA as persons in charge” and that “it appears that OSCA allows their kitchens to operate without the necessary public health controls.”
Rees could not verify for certain that the criticisms in the report and the recent illness are connected. According to Rees, after receiving this report, OSCA began “very actively responding and providing a lot of head cook trainings to our members, and stepping up education among co-opers who work in the kitchen.” “It was after we began to respond in this way that a few Tank members began to display symptoms of illness,” he continued.
According to Rees, an OSCA Cleanliness Staff investigation concluded that the illness most likely resulted from a flu or flu-like virus spreading through prepared food, as opposed to food poisoning from OSCA members mishandling food.
The Lorain County General Health District has not yet released an official statement on the recent outbreak.
This article was updated on March 3, 2011.