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'Mass illness' sickens hundreds after jambalaya fundraiser

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COLUMBIA, Louisiana – Some 200 people are ill in this small community south of Monroe and health officials are trying to figure out what caused everyone to get sick.

The situation has been described as a “mass illness” by local news. People started feeling ill Monday, authorities said.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, 49 cases of gastrointestinal illness have been confirmed, leaving 31 people hospitalized. Victims range from ages 15 to 70.

Thursday, officials were working to link the cases of people being sick to a deceased man who complained of similar symptoms as those who are currently ill. Health officials said five individuals have tested positive for salmonella so far.

The Department of Health says the illness can likely be traced back to a pot of jambalaya eaten at a weekend softball event. Authorities believe about 300 people were served the jambalaya and are expecting more reports of illness in the coming days.

Health officials said anyone who purchased food from the fundraiser should throw away anything that has not yet been consumed.  

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