SHELBY, N.C. -- A church in Shelby is the focus of an investigation by state and county health officials searching for the cause of an outbreak of salmonella.
The outbreak was first reported following the annual fund-raising barbecue at Sandy Plains Baptist Church on New House Road last Saturday.
Cleveland County and North Carolina health officials first said nine people were sickened following the barbecue and five of those cases were serious enough to require hospitalization.
Friday, the numbers jumped to 71 probable cases. Eleven of them are confirmed. Three patients are currently hospitalized.
“We certainly hate to hear that anybody got sick,” said Pastor Garin Hall.
He said as many as 5,000 people attended the barbecue. Investigators have not said if they have identified the exact cause of the outbreak.
Pastor Hall said the church has always taken a lot of care in the way the food is prepared.
“We have cookers that keep meat hot all the time and so we take a lot of pride in the way that we do it and try to do it well," said the pastor.
Foods most likely to contain salmonella include raw or under-cooked eggs, raw milk, contaminated water and raw or under-cooked meats.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says salmonella is the second most common intestinal infection in the United States.
Health officials have not released the names of any of those who got sick.
Cleveland County Health Department: (704) 484-5100
Rutherford County Health Department: (828) 287-6100