Food Poisoning or Flu?

By Vivian Blevins - Contributing columnist

For a time I have resented all that space taken up in local newspapers by the city and county health department reviews of restaurants and other places that serve food.

Not anymore.

Of course, I’ve had my share of food poisoning: fresh orange juice at the Mexico City International Airport; water with which I brushed my teeth the morning before leaving a four-star hotel in Galway, Ireland (seems the run-off from area cattle farms had contaminated the hotel water supply — and the hotel determined that taping a notice to my door after I had gone to sleep for the evening was sufficient warning); shucks, I even checked into a hospital once in Somerset, Kentucky, when returning from a conference in western Kentucky. My two traveling companions, Jen and Tess, thought I was having an attack of appendicitis.

I am, thus, no stranger to food poisoning.

On a recent Saturday evening, I thoroughly enjoyed a big chicken teriyaki sandwich — until early Sunday morning when I was heaving and visiting the bathroom every 20 minutes.

I decided to call my sister to get some sympathy, “I’d rather be dead than feel like this,” I said. At times I’ve discussed with her what hell is like, and that Sunday came close to matching any description I might have imagined.

By late Sunday I was able to get to my computer and search “cooked chicken food poisoning,” and learned that I had all the symptoms. Add the following to those I’ve already detailed: fever, increased pulse rate, and pain from head to toe. I felt as if I were in a cement mixer, minus the cement, and riding up and down a mountain ATV trail.

The vomiting and diarrhea had stopped by early Monday morning when I called my doctor and was told to leave a message and that someone would call me back. I must have sounded better than I felt because no one returned my call. And I remember saying in my message, “Should I just stay hydrated, rest, and ride this out?” I had read those instructions on the Internet in addition to some warnings about hospital visits and possible death.

Day three and I called my doctor again. This time I was offered an appointment, but there was no way I felt like driving to her office. I did, however, tell my husband to stick close to the house in case I needed to go to the hospital. I was exhausted and dragging myself from bed to chair to sofa.

I called the college and my students to tell them I could not teach, and all were kind, solicitous.

I was so weak, but I felt certain I would be able to drive to Covington on Wednesday morning to celebrate World War II veteran Marion Adams being awarded a flag that had flown over the Pentagon. Wrong.

By Wednesday afternoon, I was calling the health department to check out the latest findings when they inspected the restaurant where I bought the chicken sandwich (two violations), followed by a call to the restaurant owner/ manager. He was first in strong denial that my illness came from his food, and then he apologized.

Wednesday night I could hang in for one hour of a three-hour class. When I dismissed the class and stumbled to my car, I couldn’t even figure out how to put it in reverse. This is just what college students need, an addled instructor. A student came to my rescue.

I was fine by Thursday, but several had diagnosed my illness as flu.

Call my four-day experience what you will, food poisoning, flu, complicated by old age or a weakened immune system from a January illness. Know that I won’t be returning to that restaurant.

Further, as I read the reviews of places serving food in our area, I am so pleased to have the city and county health departments on my team. Thank you for your oversight. We need you.


By Vivian Blevins

Contributing columnist

Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or

Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or