LA County says 170 sickened at conference

A mysterious illness sickened about 170 people attending a global Internet conference in Southern California, but it was unclear if a party at the Playboy Mansion played any role in spreading it, health officials said Monday.

The Los Angeles County's Department of Public Health said it learned Friday that people who attended the DOMAINfest Global conference in Santa Monica had come down with a suspected respiratory infection.

The agency contacted everyone associated with the conference, and so far about 170 people have reported fever, chills, coughs or other signs of illness.

The type of illness and source of exposure remained under investigation.

The conference ran from Feb. 1-3 and drew some 700 people from 30 countries to lectures and attend workshops in Santa Monica.

Nighttime events included a Polynesian-themed pool and garden party, a networking event at the famed Los Angeles Skybar, and a Feb. 3 charity fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills.

"At this time, public health has not determined that the source of exposure is limited to a specific location," the agency's statement said.

The Playboy Mansion was cooperating fully with the health investigation, said an e-mail from Teri Thomerson, spokeswoman for Playboy Enterprises Inc.

Health officials said it appeared the illness was confined to the conference-goers.

Because many live outside of Los Angeles County, officials were investigating in cooperation with health departments in surrounding counties, the state Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

© 2011 The Associated Press.