Elderly man hospitalized for food poisoning

16 others taken ill after dinner on Shore

April 06, 1999|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN STAFF

An elderly Kent County man was in critical condition yesterday after contracting salmonella poisoning at a dinner held by a volunteer fire company, health officials said. At least 16 other people were sickened by the bacteria.

Authorities would not identify the elderly man but said he was admitted Wednesday to Kent & Queen Anne's Hospital in Chestertown. "He's more critical today than yesterday, and we're very concerned," said Dr. John A. Grant of the Kent County Health Department.

The dinner was held as a fund-raiser by Millington Fire Company March 20, one of four such meals the company prepares each year. Four of the 814 people who attended were hospitalized Wednesday. Two have been released. The other person still in the hospital "is doing fine," Grant said.

Health officials suspect that chicken salad served at the dinner was contaminated with the bacteria.

"It's important to know if the contamination arrived on the food, in the raw materials, or if it was introduced by a food handler," Grant said. People can be carriers of the bacteria without showing symptoms, he said.

Symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Most patients recover without treatment, but the elderly and young children are susceptible to more serious problems, most often brought on by dehydration.

Eastern Shore residents often use an unusual recipe for chicken salad, combining eggs, vinegar and spice to make a pudding-like sauce, then adding the chicken, which is boiled separately. That type of chicken salad was served at the fund-raiser.

Grant said investigators suspect that the eggs or the chicken was contaminated. If the food was not cooked at a hot enough temperature, salmonella would not have been killed, he said.

William Dwyer, the fire company president, told the Associated Press that the food was prepared by fire company members and that everything was handled as it has been for at least five years.

Pub Date: 4/06/99

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