Gaston County health officials said Wednesday that at least 55 of the more than 400 people who attended a church conference earlier this month in Bessemer City have exhibited symptoms similar to those of salmonella.
But officials with Gaston County Health and Human Services said tests have confirmed only seven cases of the bacteria-borne illness, although they said “a significant number” of lab results are pending, and more samples are being collected.
There are no reports that any of those stricken in the salmonella outbreak are seriously ill.
The illness was traced to people who attended the conference Oct. 1-5 at Living Word Tabernacle Church, according to Gaston health officials.
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Gaston County Health and Human Services Director Chris Dobbins said Wednesday that at least 55 people who attended the conference have reported symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever.
According to Dobbins, as of Wednesday morning, the majority of those who reported symptoms “are on the road to recovery.”
Dobbins said more than 400 people, mostly adults, attended the church conference, and he said they brought many different types of food.
“It was a very large menu served over the course of the conference,” he said. “Everything from meat and poultry to potato salad ... high-risk foods if not properly prepared and stored.”
Officials have been interviewing people who exhibited symptoms of the illness and trying to determine which food was responsible. Dobbins said it “is not a punitive investigation.”
He said members of the church have been “incredibly cooperative through the investigative process.”
Gaston County Health and Human Services is asking anyone who attended the conference and started having diarrhea within a week of the event to call 704-853-5214. Those who call on weekends or outside business hours should leave a message, and a staff member will return the call.
Dobbins said people who have fallen ill should make sure they stay hydrated and seek medical care if the diarrhea or vomiting symptoms don’t improve. The disease usually runs its course in five to seven days, authorities said.
Salmonella is a bacteria-caused infection that is transmitted by food, water or on surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces of an infected person or animal.
The bacteria often is found in uncooked or undercooked meat, milk or eggs. People can carry the salmonella bacteria for weeks after symptoms have abated.