New questions surround e-coli & salmonella investigation in Decatur

DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) – Questions still surround an investigation into e-coli and salmonella that sickened 19 people at a luncheon May 30.  One person died a week after eating at the luncheon.

Health officials are moving quickly with their investigations, but may be about to hit a brick wall.   You see, the doctors’ window of opportunity has closed.

Testers with the Alabama Department of Public Health do not expect any information to allow them to link an e-coli and salmonella outbreak to a specific source.  The state’s epidemiologist explained the reason is a delay from the luncheon’s sponsor, to report illnesses.

Health officials believe the delay was more than a week after nearly 100 people ate inside a Decatur church.  A supervisor with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in Morgan County confirmed his agency sponsored the luncheon for the Senior Aging Initiative.

However, the supervisor did not accept responsibility for providing the food.  He insists another office for the Cooperative at Alabama A&M University arranged the food.

Health officials told WHNT News 19 no food is available for testing and clinical specimens obtained from people at the time of their illness are limited.

Virginia Caples with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Alabama A&M University sent this statement to WHNT News 19 late Monday afternoon:

“The Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Program Unit of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (UANNP-ACES) under its Successful Aging Initiate (SAI) was the sponsor of a SAI Conference held in Morgan County on May 30, 2014. As is customary, meals were served during the conference with strict adherence to all procedures and regulations for health and safety.  Over 300 persons attended the conference and were served meals.  We have been made aware of two complaints that were filed with the Health Department alleging food poisoning emanating from the event.  We have been in contact with the Decatur Health Department and are cooperating with them in the further investigation of this matter. “

Meanwhile, the family of Clarence Hampton maintains their loved one died of a foodborne illness.    Hampton attended the luncheon on May 30 and started feeling sick afterward, so he went to a hospital.  Eight days later, he died.

Hampton’s family says they are talking to an attorney.

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