Peanut butter sickens Wilmington womanMar 6, 2007 | The News Journal State health officials said a 75-year-old Wilmington woman contracted salmonella by eating peanut butter, giving Delaware its first case in a nationwide outbreak that sickened hundreds.
The woman did not know whether she had eaten Peter Pan or Great Value brand peanut butter. Jars of peanut butter from those brands that have product codes beginning with 2111 have been linked to a nationwide outbreak of salmonella that has sickened 370 people from 42 states.
People who think they've been sickened by eating peanut butter should see their doctor, health officials say.
The woman, who was not identified, recovered from the infection without hospitalization, said Sue Shore, an epidemiologist with the state's public health division. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Delaware's preliminary analysis that the woman suffered from Salmonella tennessee, which causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping.
Shore said Salmonella tennessee is rare but exhibits the same symptoms as other types of salmonella. The illness usually lasts four to seven days.
The state's public health division has received more than a dozen calls from consumers who've eaten the peanut butter in question. The agency has run tests on salmonella this year but have no other confirmed cases of the specific strain.
Last year, the public health division had about 150 confirmed or probable cases of all types of salmonella reported to the CDC.
There have been a string of outbreaks of food-borne illnesses in the last seven months, including two E. coli outbreaks and a case of salmonella-tainted tomatoes.
But it's hard to say whether it means that outbreaks are becoming more prevalent, said professor Doug Archer, associate dean for research at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida.
Archer credits PulseNet with increasing the visibility of outbreaks. Run by the CDC, PulseNet is a national network of public health and food regulatory agency labs that perform special molecular testing of food-borne bacteria. The tests can be used to distinguish strains of organisms such as E. coli and salmonella.
"It can find outbreaks where before we formally couldn't," Archer said. "It doesn't take long now to say that a single case in Delaware is related to a bigger piece of an outbreak going on."