Hundreds of people in Northwest Georgia became sick after eating a catered company Thanksgiving dinner in recent days according to local news reports out of Bartow County.

Local and state public health officials have confirmed that they are investigating an apparent foodborne illness outbreak related to a two-day catered event this past week at the Toyo Tire plant in White, GA.

“While we suspect this is a foodborne-related outbreak, that hasn’t been confirmed. Cause of the outbreak is not yet known,” according to a Monday statement from the Georgia Department of Health. “We know of two hospitalizations in Bartow, but there may have been more. We are working with Toyo (human resources) to determine how many people potentially may have been affected.

“Bartow County Health Department environmental health specialists are investigating the caterer’s food preparation and handling practices. We are investigating if there may have been other sources of food at this event and if the event caterer may have provided food to other locations.”

The public health agencies did not name the caterer, but posts on the Bartow Discussions Facebook page indicate a local Italian/pizza restaurant catered the event.

Several local media outlets reported that 1,800 people attended the company dinner, which took place over two days. Some of those reports, as well as comments on the Bartow Discussions page say hundreds of people have reported symptoms consistent with Salmonella poisoning.

The public health “situation update” posted Monday reported lab tests are pending. They hope to know this week if a foodborne pathogen such as Salmonella or Campylobacter is the cause of the illnesses.

In the meantime, Georgia health officials are urging anyone with symptoms of food poisoning to seek medical attention and tell their doctors about possible exposure to a foodborne pathogen. The situation update listed the following symptoms to watch for:

  • High fever with a temperature over 101.5 degrees F, measured orally;
  • Blood in stools;
  • Frequent vomiting that prevents keeping fluids down, which can lead to dehydration;
  • Signs of dehydration, including a marked decrease in urination, a very dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy when standing up; and/or
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than three days.

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