In a follow-up to a report Wednesday, Alabama health officials have detected Staphylococcus aureus toxin in several food products served at both locations of the Sunnyside Child Care Center in Montgomery. Eighty-six children attending the facilities have been treated at local hospitals this week for symptoms that include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and lethargy. Clinical samples were all negative for Norovirus and are being tested for other enteric pathogens such as Salmonella, Shigella and E. coli. Laboratory test results are pending.

Staphylococcus aureus Image/CDC
Staphylococcus aureus

Public health environmentalists are working with the facility regarding the kitchen and food handling to avoid any reoccurrence and prevent future food-related outbreaks. A kitchen at the Sunnyside Child Care Center on S. Court Street prepares meals for children there and caters food served at the Sunnyside Child Care Center on Norman Bridge Road.

Public health staff members have inspected the centers and collected clinical and environmental samples that are being processed at the Bureau of Clinical Laboratories. An investigation protocol that includes detailed questionnaires is being utilized.

On the afternoon of June 23, a concerned parent contacted Health Department personnel to report this suspected outbreak. More than 300 children attended the two day care centers Tuesday. The department has closed the kitchen and has asked the child care center to remain closed while the investigation is ongoing, and cleaning and prevention measures are being implemented.

State Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson has advised parents not to take ill children who attended these centers to any day care providers while this investigation is underway. Parents are urged to follow guidelines for child care admittance, such as being free of fever and other symptoms for 24 hours before returning to day care.

Staphylococcal food poisoning is a gastrointestinal illness. It is caused by eating foods contaminated with toxin-producing Staphylococcus aureus.

Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium found on the skin and in the noses of healthy people and animals. Staphylococcus aureus can produce seven different toxins that are frequently responsible for food poisoning.

Staphylococcal enterotoxins are fast acting, sometimes causing illness in as little as 30 minutes. Symptomsusually develop within one to six hours after eating contaminated food. Patients typically experience several of the following: nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. The illness is usually mild and most patientsrecover after one to three days.

To prevent Staphylococcal contamination, keep kitchens and food-serving areas clean and sanitized.  Keep hot foods hot (over 140°F) and cold foods cold (40°F or under). Make sure to wash hands and under fingernails vigorously with soap and water before handling and preparing food. Do not prepare food if you have an open sore or wound on your hands or if you have a nose or eye infection.