About 40 people became ill after eating food contaminated with feces at a North Carolina birthday party on Saturday, June 30, health officials said.
Around 100 people had attended the potluck in the Forest Hills Apartments in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We now know that about 40 percent of the individuals who attended that party have been affected by what appears to be an infection caused by exposure to feces," Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said on Monday.
"What we're looking at is someone who prepared food for the event who did not wash their hands well," she said.
Harris said that a "highly contagious" bacteria, Shigella, was "transferred to the individuals at the party."
At least 19 individuals were hospitalized, Harris said, and a small number of people are in intensive care units.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of Shigellosis include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. The disease is caused by Shigella bacteria and typically goes away in five to seven days.
Some of those infected may not show symptoms but may still be contagious. The disease's spread can be prevented with handwashing.
People who attended the party have been warned to toss out any food they may have taken home.
Everyone else has been urged to wash their hands thoroughly before preparing or handling food.
"The best way to prevent shigella is to wash hands thoroughly before preparing food, after using the restroom and changing diapers," warned city officials.