Investigation into Red Bay illnesses continues

Officials are still waiting for conclusive test results as to the cause of the recent outbreak of illness at Red Bay Primary School, according to a press statement released by the government Friday.

On Wednesday, Sept. 2, approximately 107 children and staff reported symptoms of vomiting and abdominal pain after eating lunch. Twenty-three individuals taken ill were treated at the hospital and released the same day. No additional cases have been reported since then.

The school has remained open, although the kitchen, located in Mary Miller Hall, has been closed while officials continue their investigation.

According to the press statement, the Public Health Department is “confident” that the school’s kitchen facilities are “adequately sanitized” and that the kitchen remains closed “out of an abundance of caution.”

Since the outbreak, the statement adds, there has been a comprehensive testing of food samples retrieved from lunch served on the day illnesses were reported, a thorough cleaning of the kitchen and equipment, a post-clean-up sampling, and a number of site visits by officials from the Departments of Public Health and Environmental Health.

“We want to reassure the public that the safety of our students and school staff is of paramount importance,” said Dr. Samuel Williams, Acting Medical Officer of Health. “All conclusive findings will be made known to the public and we will remain vigilant.”

Mise en Place owner Sean Collins has said that tests on food samples have come back negative, indicating that it is unlikely that the cause of the outbreak was the food. He also said that tests done on the seven Mise en Place staff members posted in the kitchen came back negative for staphylococcus, the bacteria most commonly found to cause infection through food handlers.

The press statement urged the public to practice good hygiene to “stem the outbreak of any gastrointestinal diseases.”