Officials with the Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services in Gastonia, NC, announced Tuesday that they are investigating reports of Salmonellosis associated with a church conference at Living Word Tabernacle Church in Bessemer City, NC. As of Tuesday afternoon, health officials said there were seven confirmed cases, with a significant number of lab results pending and more samples being collected. Two individuals had reportedly been hospitalized in connection with the outbreak. The officials reported that at least 50 attendees at the conference, which ran from Oct. 1-5, have reported symptoms of Salmonella infection, including diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. County officials are currently identifying and interviewing symptomatic people who attended the conference, which apparently served food provided by four vendors and also dishes brought by church members. Anyone who attended this conference and started having diarrhea within one week of the conference is being asked to call (704) 853-5214. Those who call after working hours or on the weekend should leave a message and staff members will return the call. Those sickened are being encouraged to make sure they are staying hydrated and to seek medical care from their private doctor, urgent care or hospital emergency room if their diarrhea and/or vomiting symptoms don’t improve. “Our public health staff is working closely with the church, the North Carolina Division of Public Health, and the community,” said Chris Dobbins, health department director. “Our priority is to identify those who have fallen ill, ensure they have received proper medical attention, and work together to identify a source so we can educate and prevent future outbreaks of this nature.” Salmonella bacteria are often found in uncooked or undercooked meat, milk, eggs, or on surfaces that may have come into contact with fecal matter. Salmonellosis (the infection caused by Salmonella bacteria) often results in severe diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain. While anyone can become infected, those at greatest risk are infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Symptoms usually appear within six to 72 hours after infection, and the illness usually lasts four to seven days. Most people recover without treatment, although, in some people, diarrhea may be so severe that hospitalization is needed.