3 dead, 5 hospitalized after rash of illnesses possibly linked to Thanksgiving dinner

Three people have died and five were hospitalized after eating at a community Thanksgiving dinner in Northern California, officials said Monday.

The eight people who fell ill attended a dinner Thursday at an American Legion Hall in Antioch, said Marilyn Underwood, director of environmental health for Contra Costa County Health Services.

The eight people were described as elderly and all lived in the same residential facility, according to Dr. Louise McNitt, the director of infectious diseases for the county health department.

Health officials were trying to identify what caused the illnesses and said it was unclear whether the Thanksgiving meal or some other source led to the sicknesses.

“They could have gotten sick from the food they prepared at their living facility,” Underwood said. “At this point, we have no reason to conclude it was the food at the event.”


The eight people, none of whom were identified, were among about 835 people who attended the holiday meal at the American Legion Hall, officials said.

The event, 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, mashed potatoes and green beans.

“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 the elder care facility. Their symptoms included nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

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 on Monday.

Officials said the incident was not believed to be an outbreak of food-borne illness because the eight affected people identified thus far were associated with each other.

McNitt asked members of the public to come forward if they attended the Thanksgiving event and also felt sick.

“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 were continuing to investigate and 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.”

Twitter: @MattHjourno.