A foodborne illness outbreak in Shoals Alabama sickened at least 40 people last weekend, Karen Landers of the Alabama Department of Public Health told Food Poisoning Bulletin. Those sickened have symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. Six people have been hospitalized because their illnesses are so severe.
The illnesses happened after a private event in Sheffield, Alabama, near Muscle Shoals. About 150 people attended that event. Public health officials believe that “while the number of ill persons and the hospitalized numbers may increase, we may be at the peak of the illness given the average incubation period and course of foodborne outbreaks.” Test results may be available late in the week.
Officials will not speculate on the “causative agent” at this time. Patient stool samples and samples of food served at the event are at the State Health Department Laboratory for testing and the Health Department will inform the public when more is known.
Public health officials will not comment on the venue, who provided the food, or the pathogen that may have caused these illnesses. Newspapers in the area reported that the caterer at the event was Indelible Catering.
We do not know how long after the event people got sick, although if the event was held on Saturday and the outbreak was known by Tuesday, one of the possible culprits is Salmonella. Illnesses caused by that pathogenic bacteria take six to seventy-two hours to manifest after exposure and symptoms in this outbreak are typical of salmonellosis. E. coli infections are less likely in this outbreak, since symptoms from that illness can take up to seven to ten days to appear and usually do not include vomiting. We also do not know the ages or health conditions of those sickened in this outbreak.