Officials in Perry, MO have released a statement to say that now 32 individuals have become sickened by Salmonella since Monday, August 6th. In a statement issued, those who are ill range in age from 2-68 and 3 of those have required hospitalization admission while 2 others received short-term hospital observation and treatment and another was sent to a neighboring hospital. According to a St. Louis media report, “Statewide, there have been 578 cases of salmonella this year, up 13 percent over the five-year median.”
According to a statement issued by Perry County Memorial Hospital on August 9th “Upon identifying this influx of patients, the PCMH Laboratory Director reported the case information to local and state health officials per state law. The local health department began immediately preparing the investigation of this outbreak and will be handling the evidence that will hopefully determine the source and/or causation of the illnesses. The State Laboratory will receive culture samples of the infected patients to conduct their epidemiological investigation.
In July, PCMH Laboratory implemented a new, highly specialized Gastrointestinal (GI) test panel which has been very beneficial in these cases. The GI panel rapidly detects 22 of the most common organisms that cause diarrhea. This panel provides information used in treating patients in 1 to 3 hours as compared to the traditional stool culture testing which typically takes 3 to 5 days. This test helps a physician to diagnose the cause of abdominal symptoms, most commonly diarrhea, more accurately and efficiently than traditional testing. Identifying the correct infectious agent quickly can ensure appropriate treatment, proper management of an ailment and thus can help to limit the spread within the community.”
What is Salmonella & How to Prevent It?
The CDC offers great education and advice on Salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterium that makes people sick. It was discovered by an American scientist named Dr. Salmon, and has been known to cause illness for over 125 years. The illness people get from a Salmonella infection is called salmonellosis. Salmonella is highly contagious and is generally contracted through the consumption of contaminated food. There is no vaccine to prevent salmonellosis. Because 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 foods, such as homemade Hollandaise sauce, Caesar and other homemade salad dressings, tiramisu, homemade ice cream, homemade mayonnaise, cookie dough, and frostings. Poultry and meat, including hamburgers, should be well-cooked, not pink in the middle. Persons also should not consume raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products. Produce should be thoroughly washed.
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 touching uncooked foods. Hand should be washed before handling food, and between handling different food items.
People who have salmonellosis should not prepare food or pour water for others until their diarrhea has resolved. Many health departments require that restaurant workers with Salmonella infection have a stool test showing that they are no longer carrying the Salmonella bacterium before they return to work.
People should wash their hands after contact with animal feces. Because reptiles are particularly likely to have Salmonella, and it can contaminate their skin, everyone should immediately wash their hands after handling reptiles. Reptiles (including turtles) are not appropriate pets for small children and should not be in the same house as an infant. Salmonella carried in the intestines of chicks and ducklings contaminates their environment and the entire surface of the animal. Children can be exposed to the bacteria by simply holding, cuddling, or kissing the birds. Children should not handle baby chicks or other young birds. Everyone should immediately wash their hands after touching birds, including baby chicks and ducklings, or their environment.
Some prevention steps occur everyday without you thinking about it. Pasteurization of milk and treatment of municipal water supplies are highly effective prevention measures that have been in place for decades. In the 1970s, small pet turtles were a common source of salmonellosis in the United States, so in 1975, the sale of small turtles was banned in this country. However, in 2008, they were still being sold, and cases of Salmonella associated with pet turtles have been reported. Improvements in farm animal hygiene, in slaughter plant practices, and in vegetable and fruit harvesting and packing operations may help prevent salmonellosis caused by contaminated foods. Better education of food industry workers in basic food safety and restaurant inspection procedures may prevent cross-contamination and other food handling errors that can lead to outbreaks. Wider use of pasteurized egg in restaurants, hospitals, and nursing homes is an important prevention measure. In the future, irradiation or other treatments may greatly reduce contamination of raw meat.
What are the Symptoms of Salmonella?
The symptoms of Salmonella infection are high fever, diarrhea, bloody stools, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and severe dehydration. Some patients may experience some, but not all of the symptoms, while others will experience all such symptoms. The incubation period for the bacteria is approximately 12 to 72 hours. If patients have these symptoms, they should seek medical care to obtain testing to confirm their diagnosis. Knowledge of being infected and early treatment is crucial to preventing serious illness and the spread of the disease. Patients experiencing symptoms of severe dehydration; such as dizziness, weakness, fainting, confusion, and difficulty breathing should seek emergency care.
Who is at risk?
Special concern should be given to the elderly, immunocompromised patients, and small children. These individuals can become quickly dehydrated and succumb to other health risks if severely infected.
CDC estimates Salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths in the United States every year. Food is the source for about 1 million of these illnesses.
As mentioned earlier in this article if you believe you have been sickened by Salmonella you should seek medical attention immediately. Being able to get to the cause of any illness can lessen the effects and allow you to have more time to focus on getting well. Diagnosis is key.
By: Samantha Cooper, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)