24 people have reportedly fallen ill with salmonella poisoning this week, 14 of whom have required hospitalisation, after dining at NOA, one of the most highly-rated restaurants in Estonia.
The individuals reportedly checked into West Tallinn Central Hospital on Paldiski Highway between Wednesday and Thursday lunchtime, and an additional five received outpatient treatment before being sent home, according to hospital spokesperson Liis Suba.
Several more people have apparently contacted the reception desk at various clinics to seek advice with similar issues, and the Health Board of Estonia has started to investigate the matter. Whether the persons contacting clinics for advice were suffering from salmonella and had visited NOA, or were doing so after hearing reports about the incident, is not clear, as is whether all the individuals had dined together as a group or not.
''We are currently searching for the source of the infection; it's likely that bacteria had somehow been introduced, but nothing more can be said at the moment," said NOA Head Chef Tõnis Siigur to news portal Delfi.
NOA closed for the meantime
The restaurant is currently closed and will continue to be so until the cause of the outbreak are established, though Siigur and his colleague Orm Oja have stated that it is the intention of the Health Board to allow the reopening of NOA once that has happened.
''As soon as we heard that there was a risk of infection from our restaurant, we shut up shop and immediately informed the relevant veterinary and food authorities,'' Siigur said.
''We called in professional cleaning companies and obtained water and food samples for inspection,'' he went on.
''As yet all we know is that it is likely to be a salmonella D-strain which is the culprit; this is not a human-to-human infection,'' he added, also publicly apologising on behalf of the restaurant.
Source of salmonella not clear yet
It is still not clear whether the salmonella was contained in meat or eggs used by the restaurant; some reports for instance in daily Postimees have pinned the source to a steak tartare dish which uses both, including raw meat.
NOA staff were also screened for urgent medical checks to curb any further spread of the disease, it is reported. In addition three more restaurants belonging to the same chain Tuljak, OKO and Paju Villa are similarly being inspected and dishes containing raw eggs or meat have been removed from the menu, according to Mr. Siigur.
Estonian-speakers can watch a fuller report, including an interview with Tõnis Siigur, in Thursday night's edition of ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade" here.
NOA is located on the boundary of Tallinn and Viimsi Municipality; it topped the table in the 2017 Estonian restaurant guide.
Editor: Andrew Whyte