Metro-East News

Source of salmonella outbreak still unknown, county health department says

The individuals who contracted salmonella had all attended the Chili Cook-off, officials say.
The individuals who contracted salmonella had all attended the Chili Cook-off, officials say. BND

The St. Clair County Health Department said the source of the salmonella outbreak during the Belleville Chili Cook-off last month has not yet been determined and it has taken taken “several” more calls from people who believe they might have gotten sick.

“We’re continuing to get other information from other folks,” Executive Director Barb Hohlt said Friday. “We’ve gotten several phone calls since then.”

Since the county health department issued a public health advisory Thursday, it’s been investigating the outbreak along with the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Hohlt said the county health department was notified of less than a dozen confirmed salmonella cases on Saturday. After that, Hohlt said they started reaching out to those individuals for interviews “to see if there was a common denominator.”

By Thursday, Hohlt said the county health department had identified a link. The individuals had said they attended the annual Belleville Chili Cook-off on Oct. 8.

The cook-off was hosted by the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce, which released a statement on Friday saying it had been notified on Thursday of the salmonella outbreak “with possible ties to the Chili Cook-off.” The event was held Oct. 7-8 in downtown Belleville.

“We are working closely with the health department to help aide in the investigation as currently the source of the outbreak is unknown,” the Chamber of Commerce said. “The Chamber provides each Chili Cook-off vendor with a checklist along with health and food guidelines that are received from the St. Clair County Health Department. Vendors are not allowed to serve food until a St. Clair County Health Department official has inspected their site for proper sanitation and food handling.”

“As a result, we are working with the health department on changes that can be implemented going forward to help reduce the possibility of an outbreak at future festivals in St. Clair County,” the statement continued.

The St. Clair County Health Department has asked people who are sick or were sick after attending the chili cook-off to call 618-233-6175, ext. 4434. It also provided an online survey on its Facebook page as part of the investigation.

Kaitlyn Schwers: 618-239-2526, @kaitlynschwers

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