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Bacterial toxin that sickened Coachella shuttle bus drivers identified

At least Coachella 40 shuttle drivers get food poisoning after meal; cause still unknown 00:17

Public health officials in Riverside County believe they have identified the bacterial toxin that sickened dozens of Coachella shuttle bus drivers last month.

Tests detected Staphylococcal aureus (Staph) enterotoxin in a food sample collected by a Los Angeles County resident who became sick shortly after eating a dinner catered for the employees of company that provided shuttle bus services for the Coachella Music and Arts Festival on April 24, the last night of the two-weekend festival. More than 40 people were taken to three hospitals in the Coachella Valley early April 25 for various symptoms.

None of the attendees of the music festival appeared to have been affected, public health officials said.

While the toxin has been identified, public health officials say they were not able to determine the specific food item that caused the sickness because the sampled food items were mixed.

"Through collaboration with Environmental Health and the vendor, we have been able to interview hundreds of people who attended the dinner with the idea of determining the circumstances around the meal," Riverside County Public Health Department Director Kim Saruwatari said in a statement. "The goal was to identify the specific food or item that caused so many to be ill."

Investigators conducted nearly 300 interviews and identified one person who became sick and took some of the food home. However, many of the people who were sickened live outside Riverside County and may have gotten medical care closer to home. Riverside County officials had to notify local health jurisdictions throughout Southern California and the state's Department of Public Health, which in turn notified health departments in other states, in order to contact people who live out of the area.

Symptoms from staphylococcal food poisoning can start about three hours after eating the contaminated food and can include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. However, those symptoms usually last no longer than a day and severe illness is rare.

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