Almost 70 people have fallen ill after eating food at a conference in an Australian state at the end of November.

At least 69 people from across New South Wales, the Northern Territory, and Queensland became sick with symptoms of food poisoning, of which 27 people have confirmed Salmonella infections.

NSW Health and the NSW Food Authority are investigating the cause of the foodborne outbreak following the Aboriginal Languages Trust conference at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Terrigal.

Jeremy McAnulty, NSW Health executive director of public health, said officials from across the state have been trying to speak to all those who fell sick after attending or working at the event.

“Close to 230 people attended or worked at the two-day conference, and so far at least 31 of them are known to have attended emergency departments,” he said.

“Our public health experts continue to contact people associated with the event, including attendees from the Aboriginal Languages Trust and we thank all of those who have assisted us so far. We ask anyone who feels unwell or has concerns about their health after they have returned home to seek medical care, and to get in touch with your local public health unit, or the conference organizers.”

Anthony Zammit, acting director of food safety and CEO of the NSW Food Authority, said the agency had taken action to ensure there is no ongoing risk to health from the venue.

“NSW authorities are investigating the cause of suspected foodborne illness cases linked to a function at the Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific hotel, and as a precaution, the hotel voluntarily closed the kitchen,” he said.

“The closure was also formalized through a prohibition order issued under the Food Act 2003 preventing the use of one kitchen. Our compliance officers have visited the venue to collect samples and the investigation is ongoing.”

About Salmonella

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has developed symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions. Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)