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Salmonella source at cook-off still a mystery; dozens sickened

Public health officials in Virginia continue to implore anyone who attended a chili/chowder cook-off event Sept. 30 at the Chincoteague carnival grounds to fill out an online survey to help with a foodborne illness outbreak investigation.

The Virginia Department of Health posted the survey after dozens of people reported becoming ill after the annual Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company’s Chowder and Chili Cook-off. At least one victim reported on the Chincoteague Island Locals and Guests Facebook page that lab tests showed her husband positive for E. coli and Salmonella.

State officials got positive results for Salmonella when they tested food samples from the event, according to a Tuesday report from The Virginian-Pilot newspaper. The newspaper report did not specify what foods had been sampled. State officials were not available after office hours to comment on the report.

Even people who did not become ill after consuming foods or beverages at the Sept. 30 event are urged to complete the state’s online survey. By comparing responses, investigators can sometimes rule out certain foods.

The survey includes questions about 11 vendors who served chili and five that served chowder. Some served both. Also, another eight foods served by the fire department are listed on the survey.

The volunteer fire department acknowledged the outbreak in an Oct. 4 Facebook post, saying the 18-year event “has never experienced anything like this and rest assured we will be working diligently to make sure this never happens again.”

Tuesday the fire department again urged event attendees to assist in the investigation by answering the survey questions.

“Dear friends, we cannot express enough how important it is that you fill out the survey from the Accomack County Health Dept. whether you got sick or not,” the fire department’s Tuesday Facebook post states.

“Approximately 2,000-2,500 people attended the festival and to date the health dept. has received only about 400 surveys. Please go the health dept. website at: www.vdh.virginia.gov/eastern-shore. Please help us help you in this very important matter.”

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