December 17, 2017

Food Poisoning at Maitland Colonnades Party in Florida

A food poisoning outbreak occurred at a catered event at the Maitland Colonnades office building on Lucien Way in Maitland, Florida on December 11, 2014. At least 55 people were sickened, and at least 25 people had to be taken to the hospital. Emergency workers helped 200 people at the event.

Woman's Torso Food PoisoningBecause so many people were sickened so suddenly, within two hours of arriving at the party, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI were notified. Public health officials have launched an investigation and are interviewing patients. Samples from patients have been sent to labs, but it could take days or weeks to identify what made people sick.

Symptoms of the illnesses included “extreme abdominal symptoms” including vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. The caterer and food preparation protocols are being evaluated by public health officials to try to see if there were any problems.

The most likely pathogen in this particular outbreak is Staphylococcus aureus, which causes illness very quickly. Symptoms similar to the ones experienced by patients are caused by toxins produced by the bacteria. Staph bacteria is found in unpasteurized milk and cheese products and in foods that are made by hand and don’t require cooking. The toxins are resistant to heat and can’t be destroyed by cooking.

Staphylococcus infections are usually skin infections, but can also cause food poisoning. Staphylococcal toxins can be used as a biological agent in a terrorist attack.

Symptoms of Staphylococcal food poisoning include nausea, retching, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. The illness can occur within 30 minutes of eating contaminated foods, which is very different from most food poisoning, where symptoms don’t appear until 12 hours after exposure. People with this illness usually recover within one to three days, but some people become seriously ill and must be hospitalized.

To prevent this particular illness, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially under the fingernails, before preparing and serving food and after using the bathroom. Never prepare food for others if you have a nose or eye infection, wounds, or skin infections. Follow food safety protocol to prevent cross-contamination, and keep hot foods hot (over 140°F) and cold foods cold (under 40°F).

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