The Science Olympiad regional competition being held at the Florida Gateway College turned ugly as 30 people were taken to the hospital. According to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, 28 of those were minors. Although no source has been named, it is believed that the participants all ate food contaminated with a pathogen such as staph, a plausible option given the quickness in which the victims fell ill. A number of recent outbreaks that sent numerous people to the hospital in the span of a few hours have been linked to staph bacteria, including a daycare center in Alabama where about 70 children were taken to the doctor or hospital in within hours of eating contaminated macaroni and cheese.
The victims all ate lunch between 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and by late that afternoon were terribly sick. The Florida Department of Health is heading up the investigation, this according to Mark Lander, a FDH spokesperson.