Princeton Salmonella May Have Started with Sick Food Service WorkerMay 28, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Earlier this month, New Jersey state health officials began investigating six confirmed cases of Salmonella at Princeton University to determine if they were related to 70 other cases of stomach illnesses there. The Princeton Regional Health Department (PRHD) worked with New Jersey state officials to conduct preliminary food history surveys with both infected and healthy students. Initial data pointed to the Frist Gallery as being a possible source of infection, PRHD health officer David Henry said. Now, New Jersey health officials are saying that a Salmonella outbreak at Princeton University appears to have been caused by an ill food service worker who touched some shredded cheddar cheese.
The state Health Department says there were 28 confirmed and 42 probable cases of Salmonella infection on campus between April 20 and May 2. All the cases appeared to have generated from two food stations at the Frist Student Center.
A salad bar and the Ole Nuevo Latino food station were shut down on May 2, but reopened Monday. Food workers at the campus center have been given refresher training on health issues, including wearing gloves and not working when they're ill.
Salmonella can occur when food is improperly stored or handled and when preparers do not wash their hands or do not sanitize implements involved in meat storage. Salmonella is a common organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain and cramping 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 recover without treatment; however, in some, hospitalization is required because the infection may have spread from the intestines to the blood stream and other body sites.
Without treatment—antibiotics—severe cases of Salmonella can result in death; however, some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals. A small number of persons infected with Salmonella will go on to develop pains in their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination—a condition called Reiter's syndrome—which can last for months or years and can lead to chronic arthritis; antibiotic treatment does not make a difference in whether or not the person later develops arthritis.
Salmonella made the news last month when the FDA reported that at least 23 people in 14 states—including New Jersey—were sickened by the same strain of Salmonella found in two breakfast cereals recalled by Malt-O-Meal. Also, two weeks ago about 64 patrons of the Casa Fiesta in Norwalk fell ill after eating there in late April; 36 cases were confirmed as a result of Salmonella contamination. One man is suing for the hospital bills and hardships he claims he suffered from eating Salmonella-tainted food at Casa Fiesta.