The Casper-Natrona County Public Health Department says it will continue its investigation into a food borne illness scare that has led to 188 people becoming sick with Norovirus-like symptoms. Of the 188 self-reported cases fielded by public health officials, 167 people say they were customers of Casper’s newly-opened Golden Corral restaurant within the last week.

Public health director Robert Harrington says a preliminary report filed by the Wyoming Department of Epidemiology strongly links Casper’s Golden Corral with the nearly 200 central Wyoming-based food borne illness reports.

“The state epidemiologist has produced some preliminary data that I’m not free to release because it’s for internal consumption only, but I can tell you it strengthens the association between the people that got ill and that particular restaurant,” Harrington said.

Harrington says Golden Corral's employees, management and corporate representatives have been cooperative with the health department’s investigation.

“It is impossible to guarantee absolute safety in any setting,” Harrington said. “The best that can be hoped for is that our people to work closely with restaurant management in all of the 350 or 400 places that we take care of to reduce the risks of food borne illness.”

The Denver-based franchisee of Golden Corral voluntarily closed its Casper restaurant Thursday for extensive cleaning. It is scheduled to reopen Friday after the health department inspects the facility and gives its approval.