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The Dog Days of Summer have Retrieved Another Salmonella Outbreak

Posted in Outbreaks & Recalls,Salmonella on August 20, 2018

There’s no need to be overly-wary Perry County, but being aware may serve you well.

There were 23 Salmonella cases were reported by Perry County Hospital in MO on August 9th, 2018. Since then, the numbers have grown to 50. The increase from the initial announcement can be associated with delay in time for a patient to seek help for symptoms to the medical professionals to complete a diagnosis and report the findings to the health department. For those showing signs of Salmonella infection, the Perry County Hospital urges the public to seek medical attention. These symptoms include abdominal pain, high fever, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, and blood in stools. Symptoms tend to show from six to 72 hours from time of infection.

Of the 37 cases reported, the ages affected are between 2 and 68-years of age and have varying degrees of severity. While some have been released to recover at home and others are under-watch at the hospital (while one was transferred to another hospital), dehydration is the major concern for all. Salmonella is relatively self-correcting. However, that cannot be determined without advice from a medical professional.

Currently, the exact food source of the infection is unknown, making it difficult to avoid the hazardous product. The investigation for this outbreak will take some time, but clues have assisted in the investigation. Many of these reports came on the heels of attendance to a picnic at St. Vincent de Paul Parish Seminary, hosted through August third and fifth of 2018. A survey currently being conducted will likely lead to ground zero. From there, notices can be expected to inform us as to whether this incident was isolated and caused by bad food habits or if a certain product recall is in the future.  With the possibility of reported infections increasing, it’s imperative to focus on prevention.

Salmonella is a bacterial disease that impacts the intestinal system. This food-borne illness is commonly spread by water contaminated with animal feces that affect the soil in which produce is grown, inappropriate food handler practices, undercooked meats and eggs, as well as contaminated dairy products. The multiple ways to contract Salmonella can be luck of the draw but utilizing safe food precautions can prevent an onslaught of food-poisoning in your family.

So, here’s the go-to guide to protect yourself and others from Salmonella.

Pay attention to the temperature of your meats with an internal cooking thermometer. You want your poultry to reach 165 degrees F to kill Salmonella bacteria. The same goes for the majority of your leftovers. Ground meats can be a cooked slightly less, but the safe-zone sits at 160 degrees F. Whole cuts of beef, lamb, pork, and veal should be cooked to 145 degrees, and the CDC recommends letting the meat sit for 3 minutes before consumption. Meats like raw ham and fish should also be cooked at 145 degrees F to delete the bacterium. It is good to always remember the words of Foodsafety.gov:

“Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F. Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours.”

Something else to think about when speaking of meats is cross-contamination. The goal is to cook away the problem, but your kitchen countertops, cutting boards, knives, and hands aren’t going on the grill. So, if you’re touching raw meats to the same surface as your fresh fruits and veggies, then you’re throwing safe-eating right out the window. Before you move on to preparing the next item in your five-course dinner, make sure you are cleaning all surface areas, hands, and fruits and vegetables.

Speaking of cleaning, you can check out this guide to washing your produce, here.

It’s a smart thing to remember Salmonella goes hand-in-hand with animal feces, while reptiles and birds are especially prone to the bacteria as it can reside on their skin, feathers, or scales. That means, those adorable chicks at your neighboring farm that may look snuggle-worthy are best kept at a distance. Not to worry, they are just as satisfying to watch as they are to hold. The same guideline applies to that awesome turtle in your best buddy’s basement. Go ahead and leave that little guy in his tank.

Fun Fact: Due to Salmonella contaminations, the sell of small turtles was banned in the U.S. in 1975. So, you turtle owners better have some excellent hand-washing practices. Why? Because Salmonella doesn’t just spread through food. A contaminated individual can infect another.

The Solution: If you have the chance to play with a pet bird or lizard, just take in your “awes” at a distance. If you can’t help yourself from taking in the snuggles, soap and water are your shield, and for goodness sake, don’t contaminate your face.

Lucky for us, there are many common prevention measures, like pasteurizing milk and the well-known rule to not eat raw eggs, that help us navigate these troubled waters. Produce harvesting, and farm animal hygiene is also being managed more efficiently each day (not to say we’ve solved that crisis in the least, but with enough awareness we might just get there).

Back to the Perry County outbreak. So, why is this constituted as an outbreak? Well, it’s about the commonality of Salmonella. This infection is not rare. In fact, according to the Perry County Health Department, its not out-of-the-box to see three-to-five cases of confirmed Salmonella infection per year. That means over the last few days, Salmonella cases in Perry, MO, is approximately six times the considered norm. When the numbers roll upwards in this short of time, the evidence points to product contamination rather than user error.

What to expect:

  • Reports of Salmonella infection numbers to grow within the next week.
  • A full investigation by the CDC and local health departments.
  • Continued reporting on possible sources of contamination.

What you can do:

  • Keep hydrated with clean water.
  • Seek medical advice if you show symptoms of Salmonella poisoning,
  • Prepare your food in ways that make foods safe by following proper CDC guidelines.
  • Practice good hand hygiene.

Careful eating out there, Perry County.

By: Heaven Bassett, Contributing Writer (Non-Attorney)