Charlotte-Mecklenburg's emergency medical service Medic said at least 15 people at one apartment complex were taken to hospitals after reporting gastrointestinal and other symptoms Sunday.
A statement from the Mecklenburg County public information officer said the calls followed a neighborhood birthday party Saturday night.
Medic said it responded to five separate calls at the apartment complex in the first hour, starting around 4:45 p.m. Sunday.
Thirty-three people were taken to the hospital and 18 were admitted. Some ended up in the Intensive Care Unit with serious symptoms.
The bacteria Shigella caused the illness. Several neighbors said the sickness may have been caused by the food.
Health officials said it appeared improper hand washing caused the bacteria to spread.
According to the CDC, people who are sick with shigellosis have Shigella germs in their stool. Shigella is very contagious -- just a small amount of germs can make someone sick. People could get sick by:
- Getting Shigella germs on their hands and then touching their food or mouth.
- Touching surfaces contaminated with germs from stool from a sick person, such as toys, bathroom fixtures, changing tables or diaper pails.
- Changing the diaper of a sick child or caring for a sick person.
- Eating food that was prepared by someone who is sick with shigellosis.
Foods that are consumed raw are more likely to be contaminated with Shigella germs.
Shigella germs can also contaminate fruits and vegetables if the fields where they grow contain human waste.