CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina authorities believe a contagious bacterial infection is to blame after more than a dozen people from the same east Charlotte apartment complex were rushed to the hospital after becoming sick Sunday afternoon following a birthday party and cookout.
Emergency responders were first called to the Forest Hills Townhomes on Four Seasons Boulevard and Farm Pond Lane around 6 p.m.
Paramedics believe the illness was linked to a neighborhood birthday party and cookout on Saturday night.
WSOC TV crews were at the apartment complex as the sixth call came in and paramedics arrived with sirens blaring. Officials said more than a dozen people complained about feeling sick after the birthday party.
Several neighbors said the illnesses might have been caused by food.
“[I hope] that they find out what it was and I don't get it or worry about it,” neighbor Angela Perez said.
On Monday, health officials announced that about 100 people attended the cookout and roughly 40 percent of those neighbors were affected.
Officials said the highly contagious bacteria Shigella was to blame for the illnesses after the food was contaminated with feces.
Health department officials said 33 people were taken to Novant, with 18 being admitted. At least one person was admitted to Atrium. Some of those hospitalized were in the Intensive Care Unit with serious symptoms and are being treated with antibiotics.
At least two of those in the ICU were children, officials said.
“What we're looking at is someone who prepared food for the event didn't wash hands well and that infection, which is highly contagious, which is called Shigella, transferred to individuals at the party,” said Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris.
Neighbors said the party and cookout had a pretty big turnout and they're hoping everyone is OK.
Most who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting a day or two after they are exposed to the bacteria.
Health officials said those who contracted the bacteria were exposed to feces and stressed the importance of thorough hand-washing.
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