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Yuma Charity Event Linked to Arizona Salmonella Outbreak

Feb 29, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP An Arizona salmonella outbreak may have started at a Yuma County charity event.  The Yuma County Public Health Department expects final results next week of state tests concerning recent salmonella cases.   "We're still waiting on numbers, test results from the state.  I'm kind of on hold with them," said Becky Brooks, health department director.  Preliminary test results confirmed the presence of salmonella in tri-tip cuts served at the February 2 Hospice of Yuma roping roundup, barbecue, and western dance that were later donated to Crossroads Mission.  

Although Brooks said she does not know exactly when final results will come in, she hopes to have something early next week.  While waiting, the health department is continuing its investigation into how the meat became tainted.   "We're investigating all kinds of leads and information.  Anything I would give you now would be pure speculation.  We hope to have the full picture very soon."  Brooks did say that, based on the information they had, the bacteria likely did not come from the meat's original source.   "If it had been the vendor or the meatpacking... everyone at the event would have been ill and that wasn't the case," Brooks said.

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.

Michelle Fox, 15, contracted salmonella from the tri-tip dinner and said she attended the event with her cousin and family, many of whom also complained of illness.   "We ate the beef....  You can't taste it, but... it didn't taste too good, but we didn't know. You couldn't tell," she said.  Fox said she began to feel ill shortly after returning from the dinner.   "I wasn't feeling good. I woke up three times, told my grandma I didn't feel good....  And the last time I woke up I threw up and then she told me, 'You're not going to school.'"  The 15-year-old finally went to see her doctor a few days later, who told her she needed to be in the hospital. She was admitted to YRMC.  "They gave me seven bags of IVs and then I came home....  I feel so much better," Fox said.

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.

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