Friday, Jun. 12, 2009

Virus dismissed as root of dinner illness

Source of Article:


Tests continue on types of bacteria

By Kurt Knapek -

say they have ruled out a virus as the cause of an illness that sickened a group of people at a recent political event at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, and they are refocusing on a bacteria as the possible cause, said agency spokesman Thom Berry.

"We believe it may be some sort of bacteria, we just don't know which one," Berry said. "We will continue to test until we can find something with some level of certainty."

Whether or not the illness was related to something foodborne also is not known. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will not be certain of the cause until lab tests are completed, Berry said.

DHEC officials already have interviewed a Conway man who catered the May 28 dinner honoring Rep. Henry Brown, and he has cooperated in the investigation, but his name has not been released.

The man who cooked the food is not a licensed professional cook, Berry said. The menu for the event, which roughly 700 people attended, consisted of quail, barbecue pork, cole slaw, baked beans, rolls and sweet tea.

Under state law a person is permitted to make and serve food under the occasional caterer classification, which included the caterer for the Brown event, Berry said.

The classification was designed for people who cook for fundraisers and local festivals and do not make a living from the food industry, Berry said.

Another requirement is that the individual acts as an occasional caterer less than four times a year, he said.

Berry said it could be another few months before DHEC's lab is able to identify the bacteria.

DHEC officials originally believed the sickness was caused by a norovirus, which can be passed from person to person, Berry said.

The virus is common in places like schools and cruise ships where people are together for an extended period of time, Berry said.

Most of those affected at last month's event suffered from diarrhea and lower gastrointestinal issues, Berry said.

Staff writer Aliana Ramos contributed to this report.



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