Food-borne illnesses suspected after Kernels’ Pierre gamePIERRE — The state Department of Health is investigating a suspected food-borne illness outbreak that has been tied to a Tuesday boys’ basketball game at Pierre between Pierre and Mitchell.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — The state Department of Health is investigating a suspected food-borne illness outbreak that has been tied to a Tuesday boys’ basketball game at Pierre between Pierre and Mitchell.
To date, about 50 people have been reported ill with a diarrheal illness that appears to be of short duration.
According to The Associated Press, initial investigations suggest the illness may be connected to ground beef served in “walking tacos” during the game as part of a fundraiser at Riggs High School in Pierre.
Mitchell Activities Director Geoff Gross said two Mitchell students, including one basketball team member, reported symptoms consistent with the DOH warning. One was tested, treated at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, and was later released. He declined to say if the student who visited the hospital was a team member.
“I don’t know that the player’s illness is related to the illness outbreak, or some other cause,” Gross said.
The Mitchell players did not, to his knowledge, eat at the game, but rather at a fast-food restaurant on the way out of Pierre.
Barb Buhler, of the Department of Health, said efforts are under way to determine the source. She said officials are interviewing those who suspect they were the victims of a food-borne illness.
Buhler said a link has been set up on the Health Department’s website at www.doh.sd.gov to allow people who became ill to report their symptoms and other information.
Pierre Superintendent Kelly Glodt said the district is cooperating in every way with the state to find out what happened.
Gross said he learned about the incident from the Pierre district and the state around 3 p.m. Thursday.
He asked that those who were at the game and who are exhibiting illness symptoms go to the Department of Health website and fill out a confidential reporting questionnaire.
An electronic questionnaire was distributed Thursday in Pierre to high school and middle school staff and students. The purpose of the questionnaire is to get a clear picture of how many people are ill, how severe the illness is, the incubation period, the length of the illness and the potential food source. Ill individuals who are not part of the school system are also encouraged to complete the questionnaire. No food from the event has been submitted for testing.
In 2011, South Dakota reported nearly 500 cases of food-borne illness such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli. There were also cases of another food-borne illness, Norovirus, which is not reportable.
Food-borne illness can be prevented with safe food handling practices — thorough hand washing, cleaning of cutting boards and utensils, cooking food to safe internal temperatures (145 degrees Fahrenheit for whole meats, 160 degrees for ground meats, and 165 degrees for all poultry) and refrigerating perishable food at temperatures below 40 degrees.
Signs and symptoms of food-borne illness can include mild or severe diarrhea, fever, vomiting and abdominal pain. Most people will recover on their own without medication or may require fluids to prevent dehydration.
The Daily Republic’s Tom Lawrence contributed to this report.