A gastrointestinal outbreak at a wedding reception at the Arrowhead Lodge in Onondaga County, New York last summer was caused by food poisoning, according to the New York Health Department. At least 35 people were sickened in July 2015; nine people had to be transported to hospital emergency rooms. Two people had to be hospitalized overnight.
Lab tests on patient samples were positive for staphylococcus aura enterotoxin, a compound produced by that bacteria that makes people sick. The toxin can survive the cooking process and it can even grow in a salty medium, such as ham.
Foods can be contaminated with Staphylococcus bacteria in several ways. Food workers can contaminate the food, or it can be contaminated during processing or transport. Past Staphylococcus outbreak have been caused by sliced meat, pastries, and sandwiches. The food will not smell, taste, or look spoiled, but one bite can make you sick.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that about 30% of all people carry this bacteria in their noses. When someone blows their nose and doesn’t wash their hands before preparing, handling, or serving food, that bacteria can transfer to the food. It can grow rapidly in foods, especially those that are served at room temperature.
Some people are more susceptible to this toxin, including those with chronic health conditions, weakened immune systems, and the elderly. Complications from this infection can included sepsis, pneumonia, infection of the heart valves, heart failure, stroke, and bone infections.
The wedding reception facility is rented out by Onondaga County and most people provide their own food. The party in question was catered by a food vendor.
Symptoms of a Staphylococcus aureus infection include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and cramps. Since most people got sick while they were at the event, a staph infection makes sense since the incubation period for that illness can be only two hours.