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Health departments investigate caterer in shigellosis outbreak

At least 17 people became sick after two events catered by the same Seattle caterer on March 3, spurring an outbreak investigation by the county and state health departments.

Laboratory tests have confirmed Shigella infection in one of the sick people. One person is hospitalized, according to an outbreak notice posted by Public Health — Seattle & King County.

The health department reports the illnesses are associated with two private parties on March 3 at Temple Beth Am and Temple Beth Shalom in Seattle. Eric Gorman Catering served both events. Two of the sick people are employees of the catering company.

“… but these employees did not report being ill while working at the event so it is likely that they were exposed at the event rather than the source of the outbreak,” the local health department reported.

Anyone who attended either of the March 3 events, even if they did not become ill, is urged to complete an online survey two help investigators pinpoint the source of the outbreak. The survey can be accessed by clicking here.

“Comparing food histories between those who became ill and those who did not can help us determine what might have caused illness and prevent others from becoming sick,” according to the outbreak notice, which reported guests ate both catered food and potluck dishes brought by attendees.

“If you are currently ill with symptoms such as diarrhea — bloody or non-bloody — vomiting, and fever lasting more than three days, please contact your health care provider to discuss testing and treatment options. Submitting a stool sample can help confirm if you have shigellosis.”

Shigellosis can cause serious and sometimes life threatening complications for some people, including high risk groups such as young children, the elderly, pregnant women and others with suppressed immune systems.

The Washington State Department of Health is assisting with the outbreak investigation, which includes interviewing catering staff.

“Our Environmental Health team is meeting with the caterer to collect information about the food prepared at the party and food safety practices,” the county health department reported. “We have reached out to the venues where the private parties were held to advise them on deep cleaning procedures.”

The Seattle and King County health department also reported the cause of the outbreak may never be determined “because the bacteria spreads easily and multiple food items may have been contaminated.”

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