Salmonella Confirmed in 16 at Princeton University, Food Served at Frist Gallery SuspectedMay 8, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP The number of confirmed Salmonella infections at Princeton has risen to 16, including 15 students and one staff member. The source of the Salmonella remains unknown, and the Princeton Regional Health Department (PRHD) has been working with New Jersey state officials to conduct preliminary food history surveys with both infected and healthy students. The data collected so far points to the Frist Gallery as being a possible source of infection, PRHD health officer David Henry said. Health officials have been investigating the Princeton Salmonella outbreak since last week, when six cases of the food-borne illness were first confirmed. They are working to determine if more than 70 other cases of stomach illnesses there are related to the outbreak.
The survey results are not yet conclusive because a large percentage of the student population eats at the Gallery on a regular basis, Henry noted. Meanwhile, Princeton has taken several precautionary measures to minimize students’ risk of exposure, according to University spokeswoman Cass Cliatt ’96. “The University is taking steps ... to prevent further infection,” Cliatt said, explaining that Dining Services has “stopped serving some of the types of food that are commonly connected to salmonella infections.” No new cases have been reported since the precautionary measures were put in place. “As of this point, the last date of onset of symptoms from the confirmed cases was April 30,” Cliatt said. “This was before the University took precautionary steps to remove some food items from service and to close some food stations at Frist.” Cliatt added that lab results on stool samples collected from 59 other suspect cases are pending.
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.