Agencies investigating gastroenteritis outbreak in Harford Co.

Complaints about stomach aches in Harford County might turn out to be more than a series of bellyaching.

The Harford County Health Department and the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene are investigating an outbreak of stomach issues, a spokesman said Sunday night.

"I can confirm a collaborative investigation between ourselves and the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene of what we believe at this time to be a restaurant-associated outbreak of gastroenteritis," said Harford County Health Department spokesman William Wiseman. "However, pending lab results we expect back this week and our ongoing investigation, more specifics regarding the outbreak are currently unknown."

Wiseman, in an email, said the organizations "are aware of an increase of gastroenteritis statewide."

He added that there's generally "an increase in gastroenteritis activity every year around this time."

The Center for Disease Control defines gastroenteritis as "inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines." Commonly, it is called the "stomach flu," though the influenza viruses aren't a culprit, the CDC says.

The CDC said, aside from viruses, gastroenteritis can be caused by bacteria, such as salmonella or E. coli.

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