Lucila Marquez of Healio reports that 50 staff members — but no patients — suffered acute gastrointestinal symptoms after eating a meal that included pork sausage, pulled pork, brisket, chicken and yogurt, at Texas Children’s Hospital, and colleagues.
Experts warned that flooding caused by Harvey could put storm victims at a higher risk for infection, but Marquez and colleagues said exposure to flood water was not associated with illness in the patients involved in the outbreak. They noted that S. aureus is one of 31 known causes of foodborne illness and outbreaks.
According to their report, on Sept. 1, 2017, a catered meal was donated and served to staff of the unnamed hospital. After infection control staff were notified of several cases of gastrointestinal illness among staff who ate the meal, the Harris County Department of Health was notified about the suspected outbreak, leftover food was secured and samples were taken from the pork sausage, pulled pork, brisket and chicken for testing.
Staff at hospital in Houston were sickened in an outbreak of Staphylococcus aureus linked to a donated catered meal.
Of the 191 staff who were working when the catered meal was delivered, 48% (n = 92) reported eating some of the meal, according to Marquez and colleagues. Within 14 hours, 54% (n = 50) of those who consumed the meal reported acute onset of gastrointestinal symptoms. All recovered within 24 hours.
Leftovers were tested for S. aureus, shigatoxin-producing Escherichia coli, and Bacillus cereus —pathogens with a short incubation period, Marquez and colleagues noted. Brisket and chicken tested negative for any pathogen, but portions of pulled pork and pork sausage tested positive for S. aureus. Based on a questionnaire completed by staff members, Marquez and colleagues calculated a 1.47 relative risk for illness from eating pork sausage (95% CI, 1.06-2.04) and a 1.45 relative risk for illness from eating yogurt (95% CI, 1.05-2.01), although no yogurt samples were available for testing.
They said the disruption in public health services in the wake of the storm prevented the health department from immediately investigating the catering business that delivered the meal.