Exposure to feces caused an illness that sickened at least 18 people following a neighborhood celebration in an east Charlotte community over the weekend, health officials said Monday.
According to the Mecklenburg County Public Information Officer, the incident happened Saturday at a neighborhood birthday party in the 6300 block of Four Seasons Lane, in the Forest Hills complex.
Health officials said the illness was not caused by bad food, but rather the prepared food was contaminated by coming in contact with fecal matter.
MEDIC said they initially responded to five separate 911 calls within an hour at the same complex on Sunday for general illness complaints.
Emergency officials said the neighborhood event appeared to be a common theme among the people who were reported to be sick.
On Tuesday, health officials said almost half of the estimated crowd of 100 attendees sought treatment at Novant and Atrium hospitals.
While nearly three dozen people have felt the effects of tainted food, Carmel Clements who heads up the health departments communicable disease unit isn't sure everyone is in the clear regarding symptoms connected to Shigella.
"It can be as early as 12 hours, after exposure and go as long as seven days," she said.
Four people who were hospitalized were confirmed to have Shigella, which is a "very contagious" disease that can be passed through direct contact with the bacteria in stool, health officials said.
Health officials said improper hand washing likely led to the exposure. Health officials said the infected food was prepared by someone who attended the birthday celebration but the source of the bacteria has not been pinpointed.
One person was taken to Carolinas Medical Center and was being treated as having a serious illness, according to MEDIC. Health officials said some people have received antibiotics.
According to the Mecklenburg County Health Department, several children were involved in the incident. At least one child, a 2-year-old, is currently in the ICU, health officials say.
The Mecklenburg County health director recommends those who attended the event should:
1. Not eat any food that you may have taken home from the party
2. Be washing their hands
3. Seek medical attention if you experience these symptoms:
4. Also, if you have food that was served at the event, please keep it refrigerated and contact Environmental Health at 980-314-1660. Someone will be in touch with you to pick it up.
If you have food left over from the event, you're asked to not eat it, according to health officials. Food left over should be disposed of immediately.
The health department is continuing to investigate what caused the incident. If you attended the party or think you may have symptoms, you're asked to call 980-314-1620.
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