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‘Disease detectives’ sickened by pulled pork at Olympiad event

Thursday, February 9, 2017 23:31
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One of more than 20 events at the Florida Gateway College Science Olympiad this past Saturday was a competition for “Disease Detectives.”

About 200 students, chaperones, teachers and college faculty members were involved in the Olympiad and after a volunteer-provided lunch, more than 50 became sick enough to be taken — some by ambulance — to either the Lake City Medical Center or the Shands Lake Shore Regional Medical Center.

All were treated and released, leaving it not to the stricken “Disease Detectives,” but state and local health officials to figure out what made the would-be scientists sick. They’ve now determined the food poisoning was caused by toxin-producing Staphylococcus aureus in pulled pork sandwiches.

Florida GateWay College said the Olympiad event was not catered by the college. Food was provided by individuals and organizations involved in the event. The name of the individual or organization that provided the pulled pork was not disclosed. The Columbia County Department of Health led the investigation into the foodborne illness outbreak.

Science Olympiad is a 33-year-old organization of science teachers that provides competition in the sciences now involving 7,600 teams from all 50 states. It changes up its annual line-up of events so all disciplines are covered to expose students to all the sciences and career choices.

Florida Gateway College, formerly Lake City Junior College, is a four-year state college serving North Central Florida. The enrollment is about 7,000 students a year. FGC is about five years into offering an RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, allowing current RN’s to upgrade to an Associate of Science degree in Nursing from an accredited college.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health: “S. aureus has long been recognized as one of the most important bacteria that cause disease in humans. It is the leading cause of skin and soft tissue infections such as abscesses, (boils) furuncles and cellulitis. Although most staph infections are not serious, S. aureus can cause serious infections such as bloodstream infections, pneumonia, or bone and joint infections.”

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