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Health Department investigates outbreak in Pierre

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Thursday, February 02, 2012
CONTACT:  Lon Kightlinger, (605) 773-3737 


Health Department investigates outbreak in Pierre


PIERRE, S.D. – The Department of Health is investigating a suspect food borne outbreak linked to a Tuesday evening basketball game in Pierre between Pierre and Mitchell. Approximately 50 people have been reported ill with a diarrheal illness. The illness appears to be of short duration.


In coordination with the school, the department is working to collect food histories from individuals and will be testing stool samples to identify an organism. It has also been in contact with the Mitchell school district.


An electronic food borne Illness questionnaire is being distributed today in the Pierre high school and middle school for staff and students. The questionnaire is intended to get a clear picture of how many people are ill, how severe the illness is and how long it lasts, the incubation period and the potential food source. Individuals who are not part of the school system are also encouraged to complete the questionnaire at the department’s website, doh.sd.gov.


No food from the event has been submitted for testing.


In 2011, South Dakota reported nearly 500 cases of food borne illness such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli. There were also cases of another food borne illness, Norovirus, which is not reportable.


Food borne illness can be prevented with safe food-handling practices – thorough hand washing, cleaning of cutting boards and utensils, cooking food to safe internal temperatures (145°F for whole meats, 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry) and refrigerating perishable food at temperatures below 40°F. 


Signs and symptoms of food borne illness can include mild or severe diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal pain. Most people will recover on their own without medication or may require fluids to prevent dehydration.