3 dead, 17 sickened after Thanksgiving dinner at American Legion Hall

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Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) said Tuesday they are now investigating 17 cases that are likely related to a food borne illness outbreak reported in Antioch over the holiday weekend. One person remains hospitalized. 

The food was served at American Legion Hall. CCHS said on Tuesday that the new cases range in age from their teens to their 70s. It was not clear if more people were sickened from leftovers being taken home. 

A day earlier, CCHS held a news conference where they cast doubt on the possibility of food poisoning at the charity dinner held on November 25.

They noted 835 people were served, and only eight had originally become ill, and that all eight were elderly residents of the same assisted living facility.

"They could have gotten sick from food they prepared at their living facility rather than the Thanksgiving event," noted Dr. Marilyn Underwood, Environmental Health Director.

"So at this point, we are not calling this a food borne disease outbreak."

Golden Hills Community Church hosts the annual feast for people without family, or the means, to make their own Thanksgiving dinner.

Some of the food is prepared and brought from homes, some is donated by stores or restaurants, and some is cooked at Antioch's American Legion Hall, where the buffet is served.

The facility has a county permit for food preparation.

Monday, another non-profit went on with its daily lunch for the needy as scheduled.

The health department said there was no reason to shut the kitchen down.

Testing so far has ruled out norovirus, but health officials need more time to investigate what the pathogen is.
They are collecting samples from those sickened, and interviewing survivors about all food consumed, in and outside the senior living facility.

"There are some staff and other people who live there who are not ill so far, " observed

Dr. Louise McNitt, Deputy Health Director, "and some of those went to the Thanksgiving event too."
Health officials emphasize, there is no risk to the public.

But now they need to hear from anyone else who ate at the American Legion Hall on Thanksgiving, and later became ill with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

"We are trying to find people who may have had some some symptoms, but didn't seek any health care," said

Dr. McNitt, "and so we're trying to get the word out to people who attended, please let us know if they were ill."

Of the four people hospitalized, four have recovered enough to go home.

Identities of the three patients who died have not been released yet.