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Yadkin County health officials determined that a foodborne illness didn't cause 45 students at Starmount Middle School getting sick on Nov. 8
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Yadkin County health officials determined that a foodborne illness didn't cause 45 students at Starmount Middle School getting sick on Nov. 8

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Yadkin County health officials determined that a foodborne illness was not the cause for 45 students at Starmount Middle School getting sick on Nov. 8.

However, those officials also haven’t determined why those students became ill, according to a news release from the Yadkin County Human Services Agency. Yadkin County officials have completed their investigation, the agency said.

Todd Martin, the superintendent of the Yadkin County Schools, said Tuesday that he appreciated the health department investigation was so thorough.

“It is good to know that this incident was not caused by any food that was served in our cafeteria or through a foodborne illness,” Martin said. “The procedures that our school nutrition staff have to abide by when preparing food were followed to the letter, as were the serving procedures.”

Jessica Wall, the agency’s director, couldn’t be reached Tuesday for comment on the matter.

The agency learned that many sixth-grade students at Starmount Middle experienced episodes of vomiting and other signs of illness following their lunch period, the agency said.

Yadkin County emergency-medical technicians evaluated 45 of the school’s 161 sixth-grade students, the agency said. About 20 of those students experienced one or more episodes of vomiting and other symptoms such as nausea, headache, dizziness and stomach pains.

No students were taken to a hospital for treatment.

The school, at 2626 Longtown Road in Boonville, has an enrollment of 519 students.

The investigation centered on a chicken product, “as that was the sole difference in food choices between sixth-grade students and the other grades …,” the agency said.

Health officials also interviewed the school’s staff and conducted an onsite inspection as well as performing laboratory tests of food samples and surveys of students who ate the chicken product, the agency said.

“Based on the information and data collected, the investigation team is unable to determine a known cause of the illness experienced by a portion of the sixth-grade class of Starmount High School,” the agency said. “The findings suggest that this is unlikely to be a food-related incident.”

The chicken product, which health officials didn’t identify, was prepared and eaten on Nov. 8 “was the same shipment and lot as those prepared the week before without incident,” the agency said.

The food was properly prepared, and wasn’t served raw or undercooked, the agency said.

Samples of the chicken product were tested for Staphylococcal enterotoxin, and the results were negative, the agency said.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Staph food poisoning is a gastrointestinal illness caused by eating food contaminated with toxins produced by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureau (Staph) bacteria.

Its symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea, the CDC says.

Regarding the sickness among the Starmount students, there was “no cleaning when the food was prepared that would create the possibility of chemical contamination,” the agency said.

Many students who were sick felt better before the end of the school day, and many of them attended school the following day, the agency said.

336-727-7299

@jhintonWSJ

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