Thursday, July 30th, 2009
By Shelley Grieshop
Second Mercer County party yields ill guests
Health Dept. investigating cause
  Less than a month after nearly 100 guests fell ill after a wedding reception, another local get-together has resulted in dozens of sick people.
The Mercer County-Celina City Health Department is investigating what caused more than 40 people to become ill after attending the Mercer County Democratic summer picnic on July 23 at Coldwater Memorial Park.
According to information given by those in attendance, 42 people of the 56 attending developed various symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, nausea, achiness and vomiting. The symptoms reportedly appeared within two days of the event in the park.
The event was partly catered and the food on hand included chicken, roast beef sandwiches, potato salad, baked beans, potato chips, fruit and cookies, according to information on the Democratic Party Web site.
The name of the caterer has not yet been released. However, officials confirmed it was not Romer's Catering, who prepared the food for the June wedding where several people got sick.
Health officials, who have reported the incident to the state health department, are in the preliminary stage of investigation and currently do not know the source of the illness or its type. As in the previous investigation, stool samples are being taken to help identify the source. The food eaten was no longer available for testing.
Joyce Jansen, the local director of nursing and communicable diseases, said attendees at the Democratic event were easily contacted and have already begun returning questionnaires about their health and the food they ate.
The health department's Web site at www.mccchd.org announces the "public health outbreak" and solicits help from attendees at the picnic. It also notes that "any social gathering can produce many vehicles for a source of infection to transfer to several people."
Jansen has repeatedly said the best practice for the prevention of all illnesses is proper handwashing. She continues to use incidents such as the recent outbreaks to educate the public on how to stop the spread of viruses and bacteria.
Jansen said the investigation following the June 27 wedding at Romer's at Westlake in Celina, which resulted in nearly 100 sick people, should be completed soon. Although she knows the type of infection the guests were exposed to - shigella - she has been unable to identify the source and likely never will, she said.
Tests on the staff at the Romer's facility in Celina and a small portion of the chicken served that day came back negative for shigellosis.
About 20 guests at the wedding were confirmed with shigellosis; others who became only mildly ill were not tested. Two guests were hospitalized due to the severity of their symptoms.
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