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Five hospitalized after illness outbreak at student leadership conference

Posted February 13, 2010
Updated February 14, 2010

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— More than 100 students attending a Youth & Government conference at the downtown Raleigh Sheraton fell ill Saturday, according to one of the event sponsors.

Students sickened at Raleigh conference Students sickened at Raleigh conference

The conference, at 421 S. Salisbury St., is a leadership event for high school students sponsored by the YMCA. About 1,000 students were in attendance at the four-day event, the YMCA's Forrest Perry said.

Some attendees reported stomach discomfort, vomiting and diarrhea early Saturday morning, Perry said. As the reports increased, conference leaders called emergency personnel.

“We responded very quickly. We noticed that some kids were presenting symptoms early this morning,” said Jennifer Nelson, public relations director for YMCA of the Triangle.

Most of the sick students were isolated, treated and returned to conference activities, Perry said. By early afternoon, about 150 students had been treated. Five had to be taken to the hospital.

Students came from across the state to attend. Conference leaders said Saturday evening that the parents of the sick students had been notified. Other concerned parents can call 1-800-834-2105 for more information.

“At this time, we don’t know the cause of the illness,” said Wake County EMS Medical Director Brent Myers. “We are working with the Wake County epidemiological team to investigate the cause of this illness. It is important that parents of the young people attending the conference know that we are taking good care of everyone.”

Perry said food poisoning could be a possibility. All the students attended a banquet at the Raleigh Convention Center Friday night, he said. 

"It's now a matter of seeing what the signs and symptoms are, and lining those up with what the possible causes are, so we can find out what's going on,” said Jeffrey Hammerstein, district chief of Wake County EMS.

No other guests of the hotel reported any symptoms.

Officials with the Raleigh Convention Center said their kitchen was inspected and cleared of any illness Saturday. The facility was also given the go-ahead to have another 1,000 person meal Saturday evening.

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