June 17, 2021

Outbreak at Waterford Township School District in New Jersey

An outbreak at Waterford Township School District in New Jersey has closed school buildings for two weeks, according to a letter by Superintendent Dr. Brenda Haring that was sent to parents on May 10, 2021. According to the letter, employees who attended a luncheon held on May 6, 2021 that was catered by an outside vendor are sick with symptoms of food poisoning.

Outbreak at Waterford Township School District in New Jersey

More than 60% of the staff members got sick and are “continuing to recover.” The district can’t properly staff the building so they switched to an asynchronous day of instruction yesterday and continued that schedule today.

The district reported the incident to the Camden County Department of Health and the Waterford Township Police Department for investigation. The pathogen that caused the illnesses is not yet known, but the Department of Health told the Superintendent that the pathogen could be highly contagious.

The district physician has recommended that all school buildings be closed for two weeks. The school will reopen on Monday, May 24, 2021. During this time period, the buildings will be cleaned and sanitized to help stop the spread of any pathogens.

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea, which are common symptoms of most foodborne illnesses. The letter did not say how long the incubation period was between the luncheon and staff members reporting the illness. This time period is crucial in helping investigators determine which pathogen caused the outbreak.

This outbreak could have been caused by norovirus, Salmonella, E. coli, Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, or Campylobacter. Four days did elapse between the luncheon and the decision to close the school buildings, which most likely eliminates Listeria monocytogenes as the pathogen. All of these pathogens can be passed person to person, although norovirus is the pathogen that is most often described as “highly contagious.”

The pathogens that are likely to be spread through catered events are Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens. Those bacteria grow easily in large quantities of food that are not held at safe temperatures.

We’ll keep you updated as the investigation into this outbreak at Waterford Township School District continues.

 

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