GC Dining Services shut down Feb. 6 and reopened Feb. 7 after approximately 50 reports of stomach pain, but Baldwin County health officials have yet to release results of campus dining testing.
GC Director of Public Affairs Brittiny Johnson said Baldwin County Health Department and North Central Health District joined GC to isolate the cause of the reports.
“The University worked closely with public health authorities to conduct extensive testing and concluded that there were no concerns that would prevent us from operating normally,” Johnson said. “Initial test results from students that experienced symptoms do not indicate bacterial sickness or salmonella.”
Kyle Cullars, assistant vice president of Auxiliary Services and Organizational Development, said that Navicent Health Baldwin notified GC that it had received an unusually high number GC patients were admitted.
GC loaded $20 to every student’s Bobcat card with a meal plan of any kind, costing the school approximately $45,000, Cullars added.
“President Dorman called together the executive cabinet and an emergency action to discuss the situation,” Cullars said. “At the time, the only reported common denominator was that each student mentioned having eaten the MAX or the Lunch Box. Out of an abundance of caution, we voluntarily decided to immediately close all our dining operations and call in the State Public Health Department to investigate the situation.”
Johnson sent out a health survey link on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 5 p.m. GC is still waiting on the health department to release complete results from culture samples.
“We encourage all students, faculty and staff to complete the survey if you did not become ill,” Johnson said. “We will use the information you provide to determine what could have caused the illnesses by comparing activities and meals ill people report with those that well people report.”
Sophomore Laurie Gentry, an art major, said she became sick after eating a turkey sandwich from the lunch box.
“I ate lunch at about 2 p.m. and started to feel sick around six,” Gentry said. “I went to the hospital around 8:30 or 9 p.m. and then stayed there until 5 a.m. I got the results from the stool sample, they said that the infection must have been viral because the rest was negative for salmonella.”
Johnson said that the students who had symptoms of gastrointestinal distress began to decrease after the initial day. Currently, there have not been any new cases.
Gedalya Feingold, a GC student, started an online petition Monday night that at press time had gathered.
“Sodexo is clearly not up to the task of feeding thousands of students that depend on it,” Feingold wrote. “This is unacceptable.”