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Dozens hospitalized with food-borne illness at science competition

Nearly 30 minors, some adults taken to hospital

While they can cause severe illness, enteroviruses are rarely deadly. William Schaffner, head of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University, told CNN that all the children infected, even the ones whose illnesses are
While they can cause severe illness, enteroviruses are rarely deadly. William Schaffner, head of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University, told CNN that all the children infected, even the ones whose illnesses are (iStock)

LAKE CITY, Fla. – More than thirty people were taken to a hospital Saturday for what officials believe was a food-borne illness contracted at a science fair held at Florida Gateway College.

Multiple agencies were called to College, where at least 28 minors attending the Florida Science Olympiad competition were suffering from what was believed to be food poisoning, officials said.

Due to the volume of people needing treatment, ambulances were called in from neighboring counties, and the patients were taken to Lake City Medical Center and Shands Lake Shore. 

About 200 students, chaperones, teachers and FGC faculty and staff were at the competition, according to the college.

The college said it confirmed 32 individuals were hospitalized for the food-borne illness, and as of 8 p.m. Saturday, all had been treated and released.

College staff went to both hospitals and remained in contact with those who fell ill to make sure all their needs were met, a college spokesman said.

According to the college, the event was sponsored by various organizations and the food had been provided by volunteers and other organizations and was not catered by the college.

The Columbia County Department of Health is testing the food and the results of those tests will be released in the coming days.

"We at first thought a science project or something above, (a) chemical or something to that effect, but upon gathering information about the timeframe and consumption, it really appears to be a food-borne illness," said Mark Lander with the Florida Department of Health in Columbia County.

Officials said the only common denominator was the lunch provided to those participating in the competition. A witness said everyone who had eaten the pork was taken to a hospital.