Salmonella Outbreak

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia health officials have now
confirmed a total of 23 cases of salmonella related to eating food from Sheetz convenience stores.

The youngest West Virginian diagnosed with the bacterial illness is a four-year-old child.

Barbour County has the most cases, six. Morgan, Preston and Mineral counties all have three; and Tucker, Hampshire, and Monongalia counties each have two. Hardy and Berkeley counties have both reported one case each.

Most of these people ate at Sheetz stores from June 30th through July Tenth. Two cases are believed to have resulted from secondary transmission among household or other close contacts.

Salmonella leads to illnesses ranging from mild diarrhea to typhoid fever. For most people, it causes diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever.

Sheetz pulled all tomatoes and lettuce from its 300-plus stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina after the salmonella cases were first reported last week.

Pennsylvania health officials have reported at least 170 people
sickened in that state. Other cases are being investigated in Ohio,
Maryland and Virginia.

The source of the outbreak hasn't been determined.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Salmonella in the U.S.

In 1885, pioneering American veterinary scientist, Daniel E. Salmon, discovered the first strain of salmonella bacteria from the intestine of a pig. Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds.

Salmonella is a type of bacteria that causes typhoid fever and other intestinal infections. Typhoid fever is rare in the U.S., but illnesses due to due to other salmonella strains, just called "salmonellosis," are common in the U.S.

It is estimated that approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis occur in the U.S. annually. Because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections may be twenty or more times greater. The incidence of salmonellosis appears to be rising both in the U.S. and in other industrialized nations.

How Does Salmonella Spread?

Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal. Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but all foods, including vegetables may become contaminated.

Many raw foods of animal origin are frequently contaminated, but fortunately, thorough cooking kills Salmonella. Food may also become contaminated by the unwashed hands of an infected food handler, who forgot to wash his or her hands with soap after using the bathroom.

Salmonella Symptoms and Treatment

Symptoms usually develop six to 48 hours after infection. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and headache. The illness usually lasts two to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. Treatment is only necessary if the person becomes severely dehydrated or the infection spreads from the intestines.

Persons with diarrhea usually recover completely, although it may be several months before their bowel habits are entirely normal. A small number of persons who are infected with salmonella will go on to develop pains in their joints, irritation of the eyes and painful urination, called Reiter's syndrome.

The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness. Salmonella is rarely fatal.

Salmonella Prevention

There is no vaccine to prevent salmonellosis.

Since foods of animal origin may be contaminated with salmonella, people should not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat. Raw eggs may be unrecognized in some homemade foods.

Poultry and meat, including hamburgers, should be well cooked, not pink in the middle.

People should not consume raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products.

Produce should be thoroughly washed before consuming.

Cross-contamination of foods should be avoided. Uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.

Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives and other utensils should be washed thoroughly after handling uncooked foods. Hand should be washed before handling any food, and between handling different food items.

People who have salmonellosis should not prepare food or pour water for others until they have been shown to no longer be carrying the salmonella bacterium.

People should wash their hands after contact with animal feces. Since reptiles are particularly likely to have salmonella, immediately wash your hands after handling reptiles.

Source: http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~mow/chap1.html (U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site) and http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/salmonellosis_g.htm (Denters for Disease Control) contributed to this report.


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