CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – Exposure to feces caused an illness that sickened at least 35 people following a neighborhood celebration in an east Charlotte community over the weekend, health officials said Monday.
According to the Mecklenburg County Public Information Officer, the incident happened Saturday at a neighborhood birthday party in the 6300 block of Four Seasons Lane, in the Forest Hills complex.
Health officials said improper hand washing likely led to the exposure. Health officials said the infected food was prepared from someone who attended the birthday celebration.
MEDIC said they initially responded to five separate 911 calls within an hour at the same complex on Sunday for general illness complaints.
Emergency officials said the neighborhood event appeared to be a common theme among the people who were reported to be sick.
Several people were complaining about being sick and 35 people were transported to hospitals in the area.
In total, 18 people were hospitalized.
While nearly three dozen people have felt the effects of tainted food, Carmel Clements who heads up the health departments communicable disease unit isn't sure everyone is in the clear regarding symptoms connected to Shigella.
"It can be as early as 12 hours, after exposure and go as long as seven days," she said.
Four people who were hospitalized were confirmed to have Shigella, which is a "very contagious" disease that can be passed through direct contact with the bacteria in stool, health officials said.
Health officials said improper hand washing likely led to the exposure. Health officials said the infected food was prepared by someone who attended the birthday celebration but the source of the bacteria has not been pinpointed.
One person was taken to Carolinas Medical Center and was being treated as having a serious illness, according to MEDIC. Health officials said some people have received antibiotics.
There's no official word on what caused the illness, but more calls came in later in the evening after the initial response, which increased the number of people who were taken to the hospital.
According to the Mecklenburg County Health Department, several children were involved in the incident. At least one child, a 2-year-old, is currently in the ICU, health officials say.
If you have food leftover from the event, you're asked to not eat it, according to health officials.
The health department is continuing to investigate what caused the incident.