Health authorities are investigating an outbreak of suspected norovirus linked to food after more than 40 people fell ill following a funeral for a leading Auckland musician.
Jim Allen, who was the musical director of the Manukau City Concert Band, died on April 23, aged 70.
His funeral and a catered function afterwards were held at the St George's Church in Papatoetoe on April 28.
A spokeswoman for the Auckland Regional Public Health Service said yesterday that it was notified on May 3 that some people who had attended the function had become sick with gastro-intestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea.
One woman was admitted to Middlemore Hospital for treatment. She has recovered. Another person attended the emergency department at Auckland City Hospital but was not admitted.
The spokeswoman said the service's staff had by yesterday interviewed 72 people who attended the catered function, of whom 41 had become sick.
Samples had been collected from many of them for laboratory testing.
She said the cause of the outbreak was not yet known, but the test results, due this week, were expected to confirm it as norovirus.
"We do know that the [specimen from the] person treated through the hospital system came back with no salmonella or campylobacter or anything like that, so it's looking like a viral rather than bacterial infection."
Norovirus is highly infectious and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and nausea. Symptoms typically last for 24 to 72 hours.
The commonest complication, especially in the elderly and the young, is dehydration. It can be spread directly from person to person, via contaminated surfaces, and through food contaminated by a person who has not washed their hands properly.
The public health service spokeswoman said the food supplied at the post-funeral function, which included sandwiches and deli items, was suspected to be the source of the infection.
The Food Safety Authority and Manukau City Council had been notified. Mr Allen's widow did not wish to be interviewed.
John Ensom, of Ensom Funeral Services, which arranged the funeral and contracted the caterer, said the outbreak was unfortunate. "It is unfortunate for what is a celebration of someone's life."
He said the caterer concerned had supplied his business's funeral functions for 15 years.
The caterer, who did not wish to be named, said she supplied around three funerals a week.
She said food poisoning had not been established yet in the case of Mr Allen's funeral, and the woman who made the sandwiches that day has a certificate in food handling.
"Everything was bought fresh on the day."By Martin Johnston Email Martin