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Louisiana health officials: 158 sick, 40 hospitalized from tainted jambalaya at Caldwell Parish fundraiser

The Advocate - 10/24/2017

Oct. 24--Louisiana health officials say 158 people have been identified with gastrointestinal illness and 40 have been hospitalized after eating chicken and sausage jambalaya tainted with salmonella and a second pathogen served at a softball team's fundraiser in Caldwell Parish.

The Louisiana Department of Health said most of the hospitalized patients have been discharged, and it is sill investigating a death that may be associated with the outbreak and are trying to determine if post-mortem testing can be done by the Center for Disease Control.

The ages of those with confirmed illness, the health department says, range from 10 to 82, with the average age being 37.

State officials identified the second pathogen as Clostridium perfringens, a bacterium commonly found on raw meat and poultry, in an update Monday. Dr. Parham Jaberi, assistant state health officer, said the second pathogen may explain why so many people have gotten ill and became ill so quickly.

Health officials are also testing samples of the jambalaya meals that are believed to be responsible for the outbreak, with 19 food samples tested to date. Five samples tested positive for Salmonella so far, with the remaining 14 samples' results still pending.

The outbreak originated Oct. 16 when 49 people got sick after eating the rice and meat dish sold at a fundraiser in Columbia. 31 of those infected were initially hospitalized with more illness expected due to more than 300 plates being served.

Many businesses in Columbia were short-staffed because of the outbreak, Mayor Richard Meredith told The News-Star of Monroe.

"I've never seen anything like it," he said. "It's affected a lot of people, maybe a couple of hundred from my best estimation."

Drew Keahey, a Caldwell Parish farmer, president of the Tensas Parish Levee District board and a director of Homeland Bank, said more than 10 went home sick from the bank Tuesday.

"Everybody knows somebody who is sick," he said.

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(c)2017 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

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