3 dead and at least 14 people ill after Thanksgiving dinner in Northern California

At least 17 people fell ill after eating food from a free Thanksgiving dinner in Northern California — more than double the number of people initially reported in what health officials described Tuesday as a probable outbreak of food-borne illness.

At least eight of those who fell ill were admitted to the hospital in Antioch, just east of Berkeley, and of those, three people died, Contra Costa Health Services officials said. Only one person remained hospitalized on Tuesday, and officials said the person’s health was improving.

The 17 people either attended a dinner Thursday at an American Legion Hall in Antioch or consumed food that had been taken home afterward, according to Dr. Louise McNitt, director of infectious diseases for Contra Costa County Health Services.

Most became sick within 24 hours of eating the food, McNitt said. The patients range in age from teens to 70s, according to Marilyn Underwood, director of environmental health for the county health department. The identities of those who died were not released.

Many were residents at so-called board-and-care facilities, which typically care for the elderly or those with disabilities. Others consumed leftovers taken home by family members, Underwood said.

Health officials are still trying to identify what caused the illnesses.

A total of 835 people attended the holiday meal at the American Legion Hall in Antioch. The Thanksgiving feast, hosted by Golden Hills Community Church, was open to members of the public and welcomed families, homeless people and residents of adult care facilities.

The meal included traditional Thanksgiving fare such as turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans and creamed corn.

“They fed anybody that wanted to come,” Underwood said. “It’s all sort of folks that come to the event.”

On Friday, the Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch admitted eight people from an unidentified elder care facility. Their symptoms included nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, health officials said Monday.

A spokesman for the medical center confirmed to The Times that of those admitted, three died, four were treated and released, and one remained hospitalized.

McNitt asked members of the public to come forward if they attended the Thanksgiving event and fell ill.

“We’re interviewing people that we know are ill and also trying to find people that may have had some symptoms but did not seek any healthcare,” McNitt said. 

Health officials said there was not a threat to the general public.

“We’re saddened that this incident occurred during what should be a festive time,” McNitt said. “Our hearts go out to the families affected.”

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno.


UPDATES:

9:50 p.m. This article was updated with additional details about some of the sick diners who were hospitalized.

This article was originally published at 9:35 p.m.

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