36 cases of gastrointestinal illness under investigation in Colbert County

COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. - An outbreak of gastrointestinal illness is under investigation in Muscle Shoals.

The Alabama Department of Public Health confirmed that 36 cases were reported after a catered event was held by North American Lighting Co on October 15. As many as 1,500 employees attended the event that was supposed to be a way for the company to thank them.

Health officials were first notified of the illnesses on Monday afternoon. "We're very early in this investigation, in determining is this a food source or could this be another common source; another common source for a virus or bacterial illness," said Dr. Karen Landers, with ADHP.

Dr. Landers says many of the affected persons have had experienced diarrhea and vomiting. Right now investigators are eliminating possible culprits by trying to determine what each person has in common. "Overall the attack rate, which is what we call this, the numbers of persons at the event and the numbers of persons ill, overall the attack rate is low," she explained.

ADHP officials say that the source of the food has already been inspected by the ADHP, Bureau of Clinical Laboratories, and patient specimens will also be sent for testing.

“At this time, there is no indication of persons ill other than those who attended the event," explained Dr. Landers. "If the ADPH determines that the food from the catered establishment is the source of the illness, it will release the name of the caterer.”

Local hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers have been notified of the reported illness.

Persons who attended the event at North American Lighting and are ill should contact the Colbert County Health Department at (256) 383-1231.

The investigation is ongoing and additional information will be provided as it becomes available.