Eighty-six children may have been sickened by a Staphylococcus aureus toxin found in food served at the Montgomery, AL, daycares they attended. Of those children, 30 were hospitalized and, as of Friday, two were reportedly still there. The Alabama Department of Public Health found the toxin in food products served at both daycare center locations in Montgomery, which remain closed while the investigation continues. State Health Officer Don Williamson said Thursday that of eight food samples tested, four were positive for staph. Clinical samples were all negative for Norovirus and were also being tested for Salmonella, Shigella and E. coli, but those results were not yet available. Williamson said it was possible that the outbreak, which began at mid-afternoon on Tuesday, may have started with lunch that day. The children were served chicken and pasta, baked beans, bologna sandwiches, apples and peaches, he said, which were apparently prepared at a kitchen at one of the daycare locations and brought over to the other one. Staph toxins can cause symptoms of illness from within a half-hour to several hours after exposure. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it cannot be destroyed by cooking. Food workers who carry Staphylococcus and then handle food without washing their hands contaminate foods by direct contact. The bacterium can also be found in unpasteurized milk and cheese products. Staphylococcus is salt-tolerant and can grow in salty foods like ham. The initial story follows: Dozens of children younger than 10 years old are being treated at Montgomery, AL, hospitals for an apparent foodborne illness. A state health officer told local media Tuesday night that more than 60 of them were from the Sunny Side Child Care Center in west Montgomery. At least 50 of the children are in a special unit at Baptist South Medical Center, according to hospital spokeswoman Merrill South. She said their symptoms included nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The Alabama Department of Public Health has collected samples from the daycare for testing, and officials said very preliminary information indicated it could be a food-related illness. State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson said he didn’t yet know what the organism or mode of transmission might be. “We are trying to begin to pull pieces together. We are in the early data collection phase. It sounds like this could be associated with a meal, suggesting that this could be foodborne illness which encompasses solid foods and liquids. There’s a lot of investigating to do,” he said. The daycare was sanitized on Tuesday night and was to be closed Wednesday for additional cleaning. The owner, Thelma Thomas, told a local TV station she was very sorry about the situation and concerned about the children. She also said she thought the sickness had started with some teachers last week and was a virus. “I have been in business since 1974, the day care is a clean center, and we offer the best of food. This is a free summer camp to help keep the children off the streets and in a safe place,” Thomas said.