Arizona Salmonella Outbreak Traced to Tainted Tri-tip Served at Charity EventMar 11, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
An Arizona salmonella outbreak has been officially linked to a charity barbecue. The Yuma County Health District received 19 confirmed cases of salmonella—from the 20 samples it submitted for state testing—all originating from a recent Yuma hospice event. Preliminary state tests last week confirmed the presence of salmonella in beef tri-tip cuts served at the Hospice event at the Yuma County Fairgrounds or later donated to a mission. Some meat was also taken home by hospice event attendees. The county health department began investigating after receiving 92 notifications of gastrointestinal illness from Yuma Regional Medical Center, the mission, or other individuals.
District Director Becky Brooks said the health department received results for all the samples they'd submitted to the state this week. Nineteen were positive for having contracted a strain of salmonella from beef tri-tip served at the Hospice of Yuma roping roundup, barbecue, and western dance at the Yuma County Fairgrounds on February 2. Some meat was later taken home by volunteers or donated to the Crossroads Mission. Some cases of illness were traced back to those events; however, one sample tested came from a person who had not eaten the meat in question and was diagnosed as having a different strain of salmonella—salmonella typhumurium. That case was a separate case and not stemming from the tri-tip. "We get salmonella cases all the time, so an isolated case is not unusual," Brooks explained.
While all the samples have been returned, the investigation itself continues regarding how the meat became tainted in the first place. A total of 120 interviews have been conducted with patients who complained of illness, including the 20 tested. The health district was unable to obtain samples in those cases because the illness had already run its course. According to Brooks, of the 120 people interviewed: 55 ate at Crossroads, 34 were event volunteers from the Yuma County Sheriff's Office, 25 attended the hospice event, and five did not attend but had eaten left-over tri-tip. Health investigators, acting on instruction from the state Department of Health Services, are now looking into the Hospice and are collecting swabs from coolers, slicers, and other preparation area where meat might have become contaminated. Food-handlers and cooks will be interviewed; the process is expected to take one or two weeks and the state will provide a full analysis and report when the investigation is complete.
Salmonella can occur when food is improperly stored or handled and when preparers do not wash their hands or do not sanitize knives, cutting boards, or coolers where meat is stored. People infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours of infection. Laboratory testing is required to determine the presence of Salmonella; additional testing can determine the specific type and which antibiotics are needed. Generally, the illness lasts a week and most people recover without treatment; however, in some, diarrhea may be so severe that hospitalization is required. In these cases, the infection may have spread from the intestines to the blood stream and other body sites. Severe cases can result in death if not treated.