Dozens Report Food Poisoning at SAHA Holiday Party for the Elderly, Disabled

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Metro Health is investigating why dozens of people got really sick, some having to be hospitalized, after attending a San Antonio Housing Authority holiday party for elderly and disabled residents last week.

People first started reporting sudden, mysterious gastrointestinal problems following SAHA's Golden Gala event at Freeman Coliseum last Friday, December 16. According to local station KSAT, most of those in attendance were elderly SAHA residents, some of whom even had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital during the event itself. The family of Guadalupe Jimenez has already filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that catered the event after she attended the gala, came down with what appeared to be food poisoning, and eventually died after being rushed to the hospital, as KSAT first reported.

The annual event for SAHA's disabled and elderly residents is hosted by the nonprofit that administers SAHA's scholarship program, the Education Investment Foundation. Nearly 1,000 people attended this year's gala, according to SAHA spokeswoman Rosario Neaves.

Neaves told the Current that after SAHA started hearing reports of food poisoning following the event, the housing authority provided Metro Health with a list of attendees in order to investigate the problem. So far, Metro Health has interviewed 85 people who were at the gala, the majority of whom reported some type of illness following the event (51 people, or 60 percent of those surveyed so far by Metro Health, reported getting sick).

Still, in a phone call with the Current Thursday, Neaves cautioned against drawing any hard conclusions. Sure, the health issues reported people who attended the gala sound like food poisoning, but Neaves says Metro Health has yet to determine an exact cause for the spate of illnesses, so any connection between the food at the gala (provided by the unfortunately named "Diehard Catering") and the illnesses is "media speculation at this point."

Neaves later emailed us with this prepared statement:
"Upon being made aware of a potential foodborne illness at an event for seniors held on December 16, prompt medical attention was provided by the San Antonio Fire Department EMS and medical personnel from Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council for a number of people affected with gastrointestinal symptoms. SAHA took immediate action contacting the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and is continuing to further assess the situation. If you or someone you know was ill at the event, please seek medical treatment if needed, and call 477-6060."



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