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Cause of illness at student conference undetermined

The cause of an illness that struck about 150 students attending a leadership conference at the downtown Raleigh Sheraton hotel Saturday still hasn't been determined, a county spokeswoman said Sunday.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The cause of an illness that struck about 150 students attending a leadership conference at the downtown Raleigh Sheraton hotel Saturday still hasn't been determined.

Wake County Public Affairs Manager Sarah Williamson-Baker said Sunday that the county health department is investigating the outbreak. However, it could be days or weeks before investigators can pinpoint the cause with certainty, she said.

Williamson-Baker declined to say if investigators are leaning toward a particular cause, saying that would be just speculation at this point.

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

On Saturday morning, some attendees reported stomach discomfort, vomiting and diarrhea.

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.

Emergency personnel set up a triage center outside the hotel to isolate and treat students. Most of the sick students were able to return to conference activities, but five had to be taken to a local hospital.

About 1,000 students from across North Carolina were attending the four-day, annual Youth & Government conference, a leadership event for high school students sponsored by the YMCA.

Conference leaders said Saturday night that the parents of the sick students had been notified. Parents can call 1-800-834-2105 for more information.

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Anne Johnson, Web Editor

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