State health authorities are investigating a suspected outbreak of salmonella in dozens of people who attended a festival in late July.
At least 50 people reported getting sick after eating at the St. Patrick's School Irish Picnic, held in McEwen on July 28 and 29.
Health officials in Waverly were the first to learn of the problem, after local doctors reported 10 patients with diarrhea the Monday and Tuesday after the festival. Samples sent to a lab came back positive for salmonella enterica and a state lab confirmed the findings.
Health officials are working with people who got sick and tracking down what they ate at the festival.
"We're getting a catalog of all the foods that were served. There was chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, pork -- just a lot of different things with a lot of different toppings," saidLori MacDonald with the Tennessee Department of Health.
The variety and quantity of food makes it hard to pin down the source of the outbreak.
It's also difficult for doctors to know exactly how many people were ill. Up to 25,000 people may have attended, coming from counties across Tennessee.
"A lot of people aren't going to seek care," MacDonald said. "It's an underestimate whatever number we've got."
Samples of leftover food have been sent for further testing. Investigators are urging people to throw out any extra festival food they have in their freezers, because salmonella can survive hot and cold temperatures.
MacDonald is optimistic they will find the exact cause of the outbreak.
"Sometimes we never figure it out. We're hoping we can nail this one down," she said.
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