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Six local cases of Salmonella related to multi-state outbreak

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health announced Thursday that tests have confirmed that six local cases of Salmonella Poona are related to the current outbreak in several states.

Three of these patients had to be hospitalized; but all have recovered.

While the national outbreak has implicated cucumbers sold in various states, local health officials have not been able to confirm any association of these local cases to a specific food or food establishment.

“The tests to confirm a relationship to an outbreak use a ‘DNA fingerprint’ to identify the same type of bacteria. It then takes the hard work by our epidemiology case investigators to pinpoint what the cases have in common in order to determine a source,” said Fernando Gonzalez, Lead Epidemiologist.

Case investigations involve interviewing patients to see what they have eaten over the past several days. Investigators ask residents who have become ill and who may be infected to prepare a food journal of what they had eaten in the days leading up to their first symptoms. This can be challenging as recall can be spotty.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. These symptoms usually appear 12 to 72 hours after exposure. A clinical specimen such as a stool or blood sample is used to diagnose the disease, but further testing is not unusual. The disease can last between four days to a week and most will recover without treatment. Severe cases of diarrhea may require hospitalization.

The disease can also spread from the intestines to other parts of the body. Severe illness is usually seen in patients younger than five years old or older than 65, as well as those with compromised immune systems.

So far 341 people have been infected with the Salmonella Poona outbreak strain in 30 states. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 70 patients have been hospitalized and two deaths have been reported including one in Texas.

Preventing Salmonella infection is relatively easy. Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly. Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw (unpasteurized) milk. If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, don’t hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.

Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.

Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly, and the immunocompromised. Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or baby chicks, and after contact with pet feces. Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, snakes) and infants or immunocompromised persons.

Don’t work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.

The efforts and services offered by the Department of Public Health support the City of El Paso’s strategic goal to nurture and promote a healthy, sustainable community. For more information on the programs and services offered by the Department, please visit www.EPHealth.com   or dial 2-1-1.

Author: El Paso Department of Public Health

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