For salmonella, proof was in the pudding

Bacteria in pudding apparently caused some children from Florence Rideout Elementary School to become sick while attending Stone Environmental School in Madison.

The state Department of Health and Human Services determined a contaminated mixer introduced salmonella into the pudding.

The mixer has been removed and the camp has been allowed to reopen.

For many years, Stone Environmental School, a nonprofit group, has held environmental camps for other schools. Since 1993, they have taken place in cabins and a mess hall owned and operated by Purity Springs Resort, part of a variety of vacation facilities on 1,000 acres around a private lake.

Purity Springs prepares the food for the camps, which is typically a highlight, according to Stone Environmental School’s Web site.

DHHS staff interviewed campers and took food samples, tested equipment, tested samples from patients, and inspected the kitchen facilities at Purity Springs before determining that the mixer was the source of the outbreak.

Apparently the mixer was also used to prepare scrambled eggs, which can sometimes contain salmonella. According to reports, the mixer was properly cleaned between uses but some defect in the design may have made it difficult to clean out bacteria before the pudding was made.

“We received complete cooperation from camp officials and very much appreciate their assistance with this investigation,” said Dr. Jose Montero, state epidemiologist. “Stone Environmental and Purity Springs Resort were proactive in reporting and trying to determine the cause of the outbreak. The camp is now free to reopen as soon as they are ready.”

“We are pleased that the source of the illness has been found,” said David Freese, executive director of Stone Environmental School. “Our first priority of course is the safety of our campers and we will be looking forward to reopening as soon as possible.”

A number of Wilton children were sickened at the camp and came home, although the exact number has been hard to determine because school is not in session this week.

In addition to the Wilton students, about 70 children and staff members from Salem’s Woodbury Middle School also became ill after visiting the camp. Salmonella is a bacteria that causes gastrointestinal illness in humans. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and stomach pain that start one to three days after infection. These symptoms usually go away after about a week.

Sometimes victims need to see a doctor or go to the hospital because the diarrhea is severe or the infection has affected other organs.