No further risk from Parkside pathogen

Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) now says there is “no ongoing risk” from the pathogen that caused gastrointestinal symptoms in about 50 faculty members who got sick after a catered staff event at Parkside Collegiate Institute. About 100 attended the unidentified event.

“On April 10, SWPH was notified by the school of illness among staff who had attended an event on April 8,” said Joanne Andrews, Program Manager, Infectious Diseases, at Southwestern Public Health.

“SWPH started an investigation to determine a possible source of the illnesses (and) the staff who attended the event were notified of the investigation on April 11 and were interviewed by an investigator. Students were not present at this event, and the investigation did not reveal an ongoing threat.

“On April 11, SWPH worked collaboratively with the (Thames Valley District School Board) TVDSB to support their discussions with parents, students, and staff about the investigation,” added Ms. Andrews.

“The school implemented measures as directed by SWPH to limit any possible spread of infection. The investigation determined that there was no ongoing risks present.”

Parkside – part of the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) – has a student population of about 1,100. It is the largest of four secondary schools in St. Thomas.

Ms. Andrews said no severe illnesses were identified, and food samples from the caterer found no evidence of bacterial contamination, such as salmonella, or E.coli. Stool samples did not detect bacteria or viruses that typically cause this pattern of disease.

Southwestern Public Health is continuing to monitor the situation.

“When a group of illnesses like this happens, we follow specific processes to gather evidence, test samples, and monitor whether the illness is spreading,” said Ms. Andrews.

“Sometimes the evidence available to us is limited, which is the case in this investigation. There is currently no evidence that the catered food was the source of the infection.

"Reduce your risk of gastrointestinal illnesses by washing your hands, sanitizing surfaces, staying home when you feel sick, and avoiding shared food and drinks.”

Joe Konecny, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express