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Health officials begin interviews following salmonella outbreak

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  • Did you attend?

    If you went to the event and suffered salmonella symptoms – vomiting and diarrhea – you are asked to contact the Cleveland County Health Department, 704-484-5100; or the Rutherford County Health Department, 828-287-6100.



SHELBY State health officials began interviewing people Friday in the aftermath of a recent salmonella outbreak that followed a church barbecue fundraiser.

The interviews will continue throughout the weekend, focusing on those who got sick after the event or those who ate the food and didn’t become ill.

“They’ll try to determine if there was a common link to the illnesses,” said DeShay Oliver, public information officer with the Cleveland County Health Department.

The salmonella outbreak occurred after a Sept. 7 event at Sandy Plains Baptist Church in northwest Cleveland County near the Rutherford County line.

As of Friday, 71 cases had been reported, 37 from Rutherford County and 34 from Cleveland County. Of the total cases, 11 have been confirmed and 60 are probable.

Health officials said 13 of those sickened were hospitalized, but only three remained in the hospital.

Oliver said that while people may continue to call in about having been sick, there has been no new onset of illness after Sept. 14, indicating the salmonella is not continuing to spread.

Anyone who brought home food purchased at the event should discard it, authorities said.

Organized in 1854, Sandy Plain Baptist is a country church with about 130 active members and has sponsored the popular barbecue event for 50 years. Proceeds go to such things as missions and a Coming to Bethlehem walk-through nativity scene at Christmas.

Pastor Garin Hill said up to 5,000 people come for barbecue pork and chicken along with slaw, hush puppies, French fries and homemade cake. Church members cooking the pork and chicken “are the same people doing it for decades,” he said. “This (outbreak) has never happened before and we’re trying to get to the bottom of it. We’re disappointed at the way events have unfolded.”

When the health department called about the illnesses linked to the barbecue, “I was completely surprised because we were doing something we’ve done so well for so long,” Hill said. “We’re praying for those who got sick and we’re doing what we can to cooperate with the health department. We want to do what we can to correct the problem and go forward.”

Church member Harry Mauney, 68, who has helped cook at the event for years, said he and others in the community are concerned about the outbreak and are eager to find the cause.

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