Salmonella Strain in Arizona Outbreak Results in Severe Illness, Shows Resistant to Some AntibioticsDec 12, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
A Salmonella outbreak in several western states has health investigators concerned. Not only has this particular Salmonella strain resulted in the hospitalization of many victims, but it has shown resistance to several antibiotics. Health officials in Arizona, the state where most of the illnesses have occurred, are working frantically to determine where this unusual strain originated.
Fourteen people in Arizona have fallen ill from Salmonella poisoning, and seven of those have been hospitalized. Health authorities in Nevada, Idaho and California have also identified several victims sickened by the same strain. Salmonella bacteria cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 72 hours of exposure. Children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to complications from Salmonella poisoning. In rare cases, extreme instances of Salmonella poisoning can lead to a disease called Reiter’s Syndrome, which is associated with chronic arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 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.
While hospitalization for Salmonella poisoning does occur, it is rare. Most hospitalizations are due to dehydration, and involve elderly people and children. Hospitalization is also necessary if the Salmonella bacteria enter a victim’s blood stream from the intestines. The fact that so many victims have been hospitalized is concerning to investigators, as is the Salmonella strain’s resistance to some antibiotics.
The source of the Salmonella poisoning is yet to be determined, although Arizona officials are said to be focusing on a product from a chain store. However, they aren't certain which food carried the germ or whether it's still being sold. No items can be pulled from store shelves without test results providing proof the product has made people ill. Investigators in Arizona are working with grocery stores that offer customers a club card to help their investigation. Those cards can track purchases and could, as long as the grocers agree, help health investigators narrow the list of suspects and identify the contaminated food.
This year, several Salmonella outbreaks have been traced to tainted commercial foods. Earlier in the summer, Salmonella-laced Veggie Booty Snack Mix sickened more than 100 people around the country. And in February, Salmonella in ConAgra’s Great Value and Peter Pan Peanut Butter made more than 600 people ill. Just last month, it was learned that another ConAgra product was behind a Salmonella outbreak. The company recalled its Banquet and store brand pot pies on October 11, and the tainted pot pies have been linked to more than 270 cases of Salmonella poisoning nationwide.