Source of UTC salmonella outbreak still a mystery - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Source of UTC salmonella outbreak still a mystery

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

The search is on for what sickened more than two dozen UTC students and a few staff members. 

Health officials have traced the salmonella outbreak back to an on-campus dining hall.

But how the bacteria was passed to students and employees is still a mystery.

It's dinner time on UTC campus, despite a recent salmonella outbreak,

Freshman Matthew Owen is ready to dig in.

"I don't know anyone who has gotten sick. Honestly the food here is pretty good," said Matthew Owen, UTC freshman.

Health inspectors have linked the outbreak to this dining hall.

23 students and 2 staff members reported fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting after eating here.

"We think the infection probably occurred around August 20 and August 21," said Chuck Cantrell, Associate Vice Chancellor.

"It just took a while to connect the dots that it seemed to be something connecting all these illnesses," said Cantrell.

Chuck Cantrell, says UTC contacted the Hamilton County Health Department as soon as it learned there was an outbreak.

Health Department officials inspected all campus dining facilities.

"They did very well and they were unannounced inspections. We looked at their food handling practices. We didn't see any evidence of mishandling," said Nettie Gerstle, Hamilton County Health Dept.

Not only were health officials unable to find the cause, the source is still a mystery.

"Because of the bacteria that has been discovered in some specimens they are looking primarily at chicken products, but they don't know that for absolute 100 percent sure," said Chuck.

Cantrell believes the outbreak is over, but he says the search will continue for a source.

"We want to make sure we find out what it was so we can absolutely make sure it doesn't happen again," said Cantrell.

Until then, Matthew Owen and other students aren't letting the outbreak change their eating habits.

"I think it's just one of those freak things," said Owen.

The health department did not find any violations, but says it did review proper food preparation procedures with UTC dining staff.

Health officials say typically, illness caused by salmonella, clears up in 5 to 7 days.

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