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Peterborough Public Health investigating suspected case of food poisoning from Apsley school function



Peterborough's health unit is investigating a suspected case of food poisoning involving students and staff from Apsley Central Public School following a schoolwide luncheon on Thursday.

Over the weekend, a number of students and staff members began experiencing gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhea, according to Gillian Pacey, public health inspector at Peterborough Public Health. Pacey is uncertain of exact numbers, but says around 40 students are ill along with some staff members. Pacey says the health unit is having trouble confirming the numbers because buses were cancelled on Monday, Jan. 22 due to weather.

She adds a turkey lunch was served to students and staff at the North Kawartha Community Centre Thursday, Jan. 18, adding the health unit is in the process of investigating whether the illness experienced is connected. The meal, says Pacey, was not prepared at the community centre, but was brought in by school volunteers.

“There is a … virus going around, which is why we are investigating,” says Pacey.

A letter from Apsley Central Public School principal Karen Brohart was being sent home with students who were at the school on Monday. It reads the school administration is working closely with the health unit as the investigation continues.

“As yet, they have not been able to confirm whether the illness was related to food served at the schoolwide lunch Thursday afternoon, or to a 'stomach flu-like' illness,” the letter reads. “While we await the results of the health unit’s investigation, we thoroughly cleaned all surfaces in the school over the weekend, and will continue with extra cleaning of all surfaces that are touched frequently by students, such as doors and washroom surfaces. Further, we are encouraging all students to wash their hands frequently, and we suggest you offer the same reminder to your children.”

Pacey says it’s important the outbreak is contained adding bacteria caused by tainted food can spread orally from person-to-person and through fecal matter. She adds the students and staff should be free of vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms for at least 48 hours before returning to the school.

The school letter also highlighted other information for parents as follows:

• If your child has diarrhea, Public Health would like a stool specimen collected to help determine the cause. Specimen kits are available at the school. Public Health may contact some families who are ill as part of their investigation.

• Wash your hands often. Information on proper hand washing is available at www.peterboroughpublichealth.ca.

• If your child has diarrhea and/or vomiting while at school, you will be called to take the child home as soon as possible.

• If you still have food from the meal served on Thursday afternoon at the school, please do not eat it and discard it.

Pacey says there are a number of things that can be done to prevent food poising from happening. She says those preparing a large meal should do so in an inspected kitchen or have the meal catered. It’s also a good idea for those preparing the meal to take a food handler course as well.