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New Mexico Salmonella Outbreak Count at 21

May 27, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Health officials in New Mexico are still trying to determine the source of a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 21 people in that state.  Meanwhile, the same strain of Salmonella - Saintpaul - has been reported in several nearby states.

The first cases of Salmonella Saintpaul were first reported in New Mexico on May 8, and since then, the outbreak has sickened people in McKinley, San Juan, Dona Ana, Curry, Socorro and Bernalillo counties.  The victims of the New Mexico Salmonella outbreak range in age from 2 to 82, and some have had to be hospitalized.  Another 14 cases have been reported in Texas, with several others in Utah, Colorado and Arizona.

Salmonella is a potentially deadly type of food poisoning, symptoms of which include fever, abdominal pain, nausea, gas and bloody diarrhea. Symptoms appear within 36 hours of exposure, and usually last four to seven days. In very severe cases, Salmonella can lead to kidney failure and other complications. Salmonella can be particularly dangerous for children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Some victims of Salmonella will develop a disease called Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult- to- treat condition that causes severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. Reiter’s Syndrome can plague its victims for months or years, and can lead to chronic arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Salmonella bacteria sicken 40,000 people every year. Although the true number could be much higher, because it is estimated that for every case of Salmonella poisoning reported, two others are unreported.

The New Mexico Health Department still does not know what may have started the Salmonella outbreak, and health officials are interviewing victims to see if there is a common thread connecting them.  Meanwhile, they are reminding consumers to use caution to avoid Salmonella and other food borne illnesses.  The department recommends that consumers cook meat, poultry and eggs thoroughly before serving, and avoid eating undercooked foods at restaurants.  Consumers should also wash hands, kitchen work surfaces and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry, and they should do the same after handling reptiles or birds,  or pet feces.  

Over the last year and half, hundreds of people were sickened by Salmonella-tainted Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Banquet Pot Pies sold by ConAgra foods. In the past couple of months, Malt-O-Meal Cereal has been blamed for 23 cases of Salmonella, while Honduran cantaloupe was recalled after in was linked to more than 50 cases of the disease. Smaller outbreaks of Salmonella are reported on a regular basis throughout the country.  Unfortunately, summer is often prime time for Salmonella outbreaks, as food safety is often overlooked during cook outs and picnics.  

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