The one thing everyone had in common was they all ate catered food at the Georgia Aquarium over the summer.
In the week of July 24, three groups had catered events at the aquarium. Two had corporate conferences, and there was a wedding reception, officials said. One or two weeks later people started coming down with week-long bouts of diarrhea.
The Georgia Division of Epidemiology said it is still investigating but told Channel 2’s Jeff Dore that cyclospora made the people sick, totaling well over 100 guests and staff.
Officials said they haven’t pinned the exact cause of the breakout, but did say the common food served at all three events was salad mix, fresh basil and cherry tomatoes.
Basil has a history of cyclospora outbreaks.
Wolfgang Puck catering prepares all the food at aquarium events, and its CEO took an overnight flight from California to talk with Channel 2.
The banquet took place Sunday at the Lakewood Evangelical Free Church in Baxter, Minn. The problem was reported Thursday.
The event was a benefit for New Pathways of Brainerd, a group that helps homeless families with children find safe transitional shelter.
The fundraiser was catered by Baxter’s Prairie Bay Restaurant, according to the MDH.
Investigators believe about 275 people were at the event, but it isn’t yet clear how many were exposed or how many became ill. Early signs point to a norovirus as a cause, but that has not been confirmed.
A 22-year-old woman who helped prepare food at two catered events was diagnosed with hepatitis A in March, meaning that more than 200 people at one corporate event and about 100 at a second event, along with co-workers and roommates, had to be vaccinated.
South Australia Health refused to release any specific details, but did note there was an unrelated but "significant" increase in hepatitis A cases in SA and Victoria in a separate outbreak.
SA Health Communicable Disease Control Branch director Dr Ann Koehler said, "We think it is probably a vegetable, but we just don’t know yet."