andrew schneider investigates

June 25, 2008

Four more salmonella victims here.

Filed under: FDA,Food Safety,Risks to children — Andrew Schneider @ 21:42

With a bit of luck, we may be close to the end of the road on what must appear to be endless reports on where the toxic tomatoes have done their latest damage.

Yesterday, the CDC reported that the number of confirmed cases of salmonella saintpaul rose to 707, spread over 34 states. Initially, four new cases were said to involve Washingtonians, but this morning the CDC statisticians move one in Oregon’s column.

Little has been released on the Washington victims beyond the fact that three were from Yakima County and the fourth is an Oregon resident who sought treatment on this side of the Columbia River, said Tim Church of the Washington State Health Department.

Church told me that it was likely that the four were sickened by eating Salmonella-contaminated food in May but the diagnosis wasn’t confirmed until yesterday. He added that one had been hospitalized, but all four have since recovered.

Between April 13 and now, the same genetic fingerprint of salmonella saintpaul has been identified in all but 16 states.

“The increase in reported ill persons since the last update (yesterday) is not thought to be due to a large number of new infections,” the CDC alert said.

The disease sleuths said the increase is attributed to some states’ improved surveillance for salmonella in response to this outbreak, and because laboratory identification of many previously submitted strains was just completed.

FDA investigators have tracked the tomatoes to farms in both Florida and Mexico, but some food detectives say that having the same strain – Saintpaul – coming from two farms thousands of miles apart and the same time, is very unusual.

As far as identifying the specific source for the nasty red globes, anybody who knows isn’t telling. The game of “not me,” is rampant everywhere, with CDC saying the FDA has that information, and the FDA shrugs when asked. The often-helpful Washington State Health Department says it has no clue as to where the four victims ate their dangerous meals because the Yakima County Health Department hasn’t shared the information. And, as expected, the nurse on call from the center of our state tonight did not return our calls.

So we remain in the dark.

Just so you don’t think I’m downplaying the severity of samonella, I will end this post by again sharing CDC’s explanation of the illness in case you should ever wonder whether you’ve got that particular bug.

Most persons infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after infection. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. The illness usually lasts 4-7 days. Although most people recover without treatment, severe infections may occur. Infants, elderly persons, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. When severe infection occurs, salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites, and can cause death.

Be careful out there.


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