The Wyoming Department of Health has confirmed a salmonella outbreak, and this time, it’s been caused by pigs! The Johnson County Fair might be a fun, exciting time for many attendees, but not nearly for everyone, especially since it’s become known that a pig or a group of pigs at the fair have passed salmonella bacteria on to fair participants, causing a number of people to fall ill both during and following the event. Here’s what you need to know about the Wyoming Salmonella Outbreak.
The Wyoming Department of Health confirmed a salmonella outbreak after a number of Johnson County Fair participants reported having fallen ill with stomach cramps and diarrhea. After requesting stool samples from the five people reporting an illness, the department was fully capable of confirming that all five were currently suffering from the exact same kind of salmonella, most likely caused by the same source: fair pigs.
According to Tiffany Greenlee, the Wyoming Department of Health surveillance epidemiologist, when two or more individuals contract the same illness from coming into contact with the same animal or animal environment, the resulting event is professionally referred to as a zoonotic outbreak. Since, according to Greenlee, the pathology reports from the fair participants record that the bacteria was transferred from animal to person via pig feces, this could be considered a zoonotic outbreak.
“Salmonella lives in animals intestines and is passed through excrement,” Greenlee clearly explains. “At fair, people are around their animals extensively – washing and feeding and grooming, and it’s pretty easy to get animal poop on your hands. We believe people got it from pig poop.”
According to the Johnson County Fair Board President, Laci Schiffer, all of the animals exhibited at the fair are required to undergo a health inspection before the opening of any exhibits in order to help avoid situations like this or those that are worse, and additionally, the fair is careful to have several veterinarians on call for the duration of the fair in case an animal appears ill. Even with these precautions in place, however, it still remains possible to contract certain illnesses from animals, making it important for people to understand basic hygiene principles such as proper and consistent handwashing.
Greenlee explains that animals might be entirely asymptomatic and yet be fully affected by salmonella bacteria, making it exceptionally important to wash your hands after contact with animals, animal feces, or animal environments no matter how healthy your animal appears to be. “Not all animals will show symptoms, so we tell people to just assume that animal poop might have germs in it and wash your hands after working with animals and wash your hands before you eat,” Greenlee says.
Salmonella poisoning affects around 1.4 million Americans every year, making it entirely responsible for nearly half of the bacterial infections in the United States, which statistically lead to 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths every year.
The term “salmonella” refers to a group of bacteria, the kind that tends to cause an infection in the intestinal tract of the host. This often results in a diarrheal illness, called salmonellosis, as well as vomiting and other flu-like symptoms. Salmonella is a gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium, of which there are well over 2,300 subtypes, including but not limited to serovars enterititis, Salmonella Agbeni, and typhimurium.
While there are several ways to contract an intestinal infection due to salmonella poisoning, this illness is usually linked to the ingestion of contaminated water or foods–especially meat, poultry, and eggs. Apart from food and water, salmonella poisoning can be caused by certain reptiles, as was the case in March through August of 2017 where 33 people in 13 states fell ill due to pet turtles. Additionally, salmonella can be found on surfaces and in the feces of contaminated animals – such as is the case with the pigs in the Johnson County Fair in Wyoming.
Typhoid fever, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, enteric fever, and other illnesses are all common results of a salmonella infection, all of which should be taken seriously and appropriately reported in order to avoid an enormous illness outbreak. Symptoms of salmonella food poisoning include stomach pains, chills, fever, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, which usually begin anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after the infection has taken root.
While infections tend to last 4 to 7 days, patients most often recover without hospitalization or the need of medical assistance, though some with severe cases of diarrhea may need hospital treatment and therefore recover at alternative rates. Prevention techniques are simple and yet incredibly affected, including regular and thorough hand washing, proper cleaning of food preparation surfaces and utensils, as well as maintaining appropriate food-handling habits such as fully cooking all meats, poultry, and eggs, thoroughly washing all fruits and vegetables, and keeping raw meats separate from other food items.
Since salmonella infections tend to be classified as a type of stomach flu, causing nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills, and in general malaise and misery, you should be sure to see your doctor if you’re suffering from these symptoms and believe you might have been exposed to salmonella recently. If you visited the Johnson County Fair and have fallen ill with any of these symptoms, be sure to see your doctor and report your illness in order to help the investigation process solve the issue as quickly as possible!
According to Greenlee, “We were lucky in this outbreak that people recovered and were OK.” She went on to explain that “This particular outbreak, it was people visiting the animal barns. It was people having contact with the fair environment and then eating or touching their faces. We’ve had outbreaks at fairs before; it’s not unusual. It’s just a good reminder to have better hand hygiene and take extra precautions at fair. All these animals are together in the same environment; they’re stressed out. You and your animal are around a lot of new germs, so be a little extra careful in fair environments.”
While most people who are infected with salmonella do recover after a week or so, it’s still a serious situation, especially for the elderly, young children under age 5 or people with a weakened immune system. If you or anyone you know has been affected by salmonella after a visit to the Johnson County Fair, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider, as well as the Wyoming Department of Health. As Schiffer said, the fair board takes participant and animal health very seriously, so don’t hesitate to report your problems in order to get them properly resolved.
If you believe you have developed a Salmonella infection, we want you to know that a Salmonella Lawyer at the Lange Law Firm, PLLC is currently investigating this matter and offering free legal consultations. Our lawyer, Jory Lange became a lawyer to help make our communities and families safer.
If you or a loved one have become ill with Salmonella, you can call 833.330.3663 for a free consultation or complete the form here.
By: Abigail Ryan, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)