The illness is "...what we believe at this time to be a restaurant-associated outbreak of gastroenteritis," Harford County Health Department spokesman William Wiseman told The Baltimore Sun.
Gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, watery diarrhea and fever, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is highly contagious and may be transferred by contact with an infected person, eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.
Most who fell ill in Harford County had eaten at "one or more restaurants over the previous few days," Wiseman told The Aegis, which reported officials would not disclose the restaurant(s) as they awaited lab results from stool samples.
Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly told WBAL that while the department was looking into "a restaurant associated with gastroenteritis outbreak," reports of the sickness are on par with previous years.
"...what we're seeing in Harford County is really consistent with what we have seen in the past years," Kelly said.
The Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air told WBAL that it was seeing five to 10 cases of gastroenteritis daily in its emergency room, a standard number for the season.
Spread of gastroenteritis tends to rise during cooler months when people are inside, according to the Centers for Disease Control's Division of Viral Diseases. Outbreaks may occur in institutional settings.
Last Friday, after more than 200 people came down with a stomach sickness at an Alexandria elementary school, officials closed the school to disinfect the building.
Frequent hand-washing is the best way to prevent the spread of gastroenteritis, according to health officials.Related: