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Food poisoning in SPH staff caused by take-out

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has finished its investigation into a food poisoning outbreak among staff of South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, and have determined it was an isolated incident and there is no on-going danger to staff, patients or the public. The hospital was forced to bring in outside food on three days last week for lunch due to staff shortages in the hospital kitchen. The DHSS says no patients or long-term residents consumed the suspect food.
    Symptoms involved in the outbreak were primarily diarrhea and stomach cramps, which resolved quickly. According to the state, most people experiencing symptoms reported that they began to feel ill Thursday evening through Friday morning.
    South Peninsula’s Derotha Ferraro updated the Homer City Council last night.
    “You probably heard that last week we experienced an unfortunate event when 80 of our employees contracted a food-borne illness after we had eaten some lunch from a take-out establishment,” Ferraro said. “And the State DHSS and Conservation Food and Safety completed an investigation, and I’m happy to report this was an isolated event, and they found no risk to the general public associated with this outbreak. All employees are doing well and are back to work. This event was not related to our dietary services in any way, and patient and resident meals were not impacted in any way.”
    As part of the investigation, the Alaska DEC’s Food Safety and Sanitation program assessed sanitation and food handling practices at the suspected restaurants, however they were not identified, no was the one identified as the source.
    In a statement posted online Monday evening, the department said the robust response to an online public health survey sped the discovery process along and helped the Section of Epidemiology quickly determine the likely source of the outbreak.
    According to the state, it appears that the source of illness was a single food item that was prepared specifically for hospital staff and was not sold to the general public. DEC has closed its portion of the investigation and has determined that there is no ongoing risk to the public.
    Symptoms resolved within about 24 hours for most people who consumed the implicated food. No one involved in the outbreak was reported to have required hospitalization.

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