Mystery Foodborne Illness Closes South New Jersey School District After 100 Staffers Are Sickened

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The three schools that closed include Atco Elementary School, Thomas Richards Early Childhood Center and Waterford Elementary School. A reopening is expected on May 24.

A mystery foodborne illness sickened more than half of the staff in a New Jersey school district following a staff luncheon that was catered by an outside vendor, according to a published report.

“Right now we’ve had several reports of people noting diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fatigue,” Camden County Assistant Public Health Coordinator Caryelle Lasher said regarding the May 6 incident.

More than 60% of the staff members with the Waterford Township School District reported being sick after attending the event. Camden County Department of Health as well as the Waterford Township Police Department were notified, NBC News10 Philadelphia reported.

The staffers work at Atco Elementary School, Thomas Richards Early Childhood Center and Waterford Elementary School, which were closed, with a reopening expected on May 24.

On Tuesday, the school district switched to asynchronous learning.

Superintendent Brenda Harring said in a letter to the school community that the districts doctors advised Harring to close schools for two weeks “as a thorough cleaning and sanitization process will be completed to help stop the spread of any foodborne germs and illnesses,” NJ Advance Media/

The Camden County health department advised the district the suspected unknown pathogens could be “highly contagious.”

Lasher said that 100 people have fallen ill. About a dozen cases have been investigated so far. 

The health department continues to investigate.

“We have seen that are a few different clusters that could possibly all be linked to the same outside vendor,” Lasher said. “So we’re investigating every single case.” 

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