A conference of some 1,200 Queensland state school principals and senior departmental officers held at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC) late last week ended with scores of school principals being stricken with food poisoning, according to Australian media reports.

Salmonella bacteria (red)/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Salmonella bacteria (red)/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Queensland Health says 180 school principals got sick while 24 required hospitalization for their illness. Salmonella is the likely culprit according to reports, although it has not been confirmed.

BCEC General Manager, Bob O’Keeffe, said a full investigation into the cause of suspected salmonella following a Department of Education and Training (DET) conference for Queensland Education staff held at the Centre last week, was underway.

“We are taking this matter very seriously and are cooperating fully with Queensland Health,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

“The wellbeing of our patrons is of paramount importance and our thoughts are with those affected,” he said.

“Our rigorous food safety standards meet industry best practice and we source local produce at every opportunity.

“Our kitchen has testing processes in place in reference to the sourcing, processing and delivery of safe food to our guests, including a 24-hour, computerised food safety monitoring system.

“The Centre works to food safety practices of the highest international standards with rigorous auditing processes and internal and external food safety testing procedures,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

There are usually 4000 salmonella cases a year in Queensland.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.