Salmonella in New Mexico Linked to Flying Tortilla RestaurantMar 17, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
State health officials in New Mexico are investigating four cases of a rare type of salmonella in people who ate at the Flying Tortilla in Santa Fe from mid-January to mid-February. The state Health Department says it learned of the most recent case last week. Although everyone has, the health department is still trying to determine the cause of the salmonella.
Health workers notified the state Environment Department about three cases in January, and the Environment Department's food inspectors conducted an investigation of the restaurant and found that the workers follow all food service regulations.
Health officials haven't ruled out other sources of infection transmission and a fifth case of salmonella in the state had no apparent connection with Flying Tortilla.
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.
Last week, the Yuma County Health District received 19 confirmed cases of salmonella in Arizona—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 the mission; some meat was 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.
Earlier this year, state health investigators in Oahu identified a relatively rare type of salmonella poisoning they linked to similar cases on the mainland through DNA fingerprinting of the bacteria. The illnesses are believed due to raw ahi imported and distributed to Hawaii and other places, said Dr. Paul Effler, state epidemiologist. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was conducting a "traceback investigation" to determine if there was a common contamination source. About 30 cases were confirmed on Oahu since October, said Janice Okubo, state Health Department spokeswoman. Five people were hospitalized and released, she said. "They have all recovered or are recovering." The rare type of salmonella involved is called Paratyphi B; just because it is rare "doesn't necessarily mean it's serious," Effler said. "It's just more uncommon. Those ill with this Paratyphi B salmonella suffer from diarrhea, fevers, and chills and “Most infections resolve on their own without need for antibiotics," said Effler. Scattered cases began occurring in October in different parts of Oahu, she said.