The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) and the Estill County Health Department continue to investigate a local outbreak of salmonellosis that has sickened numerous people in the area.
“We do not believe that there is any on-going threat to the public at this time,” said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, senior deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.
According to health authorities, 72 cases of illness have been reported and 12 people have been hospitalized. Most of the hospitalizations were due to dehydration and all are expected to fully recover. A local restaurant, where many of the individuals who became ill had dined, has voluntarily closed.
“Foodborne illness can be a serious concern for public health – as well as the communities that are affected,” said Dr. Humbaugh. “We understand and appreciate the level of concern in the area and want to emphasize our continued commitment to helping the Estill County Health Department investigate this outbreak. We advise anyone with health concerns or questions about risks of being exposed to Salmonella to contact their healthcare provider.”
Salmonella infections are relatively common, generally resulting in diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12–72 hours after infection. The illness typically lasts between 4-7 days. Although most people recover without treatment, severe infections may occur, especially in young infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. The bacteria are often transmitted through contaminated food or water.
“We commend the restaurant owner for being proactive in collaborating with investigators to control the outbreak and take measures to thoroughly clean the premises,” said Kenny Cole, environmental director with Estill County health department.
Despite comparisons of various foods eaten at the restaurant by individuals who became ill with those who did not get sick, investigators from DPH and the local health department have not been able to identify a specific food item as a source of the outbreak. Often the source is never found.
Approximately 550 cases of salmonellosis are reported each year in Kentucky. More information on Salmonella and how to prevent it can be found on the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella.
Salmonella is a bacterium that can be found in the intestines and feces of animals. Salmonellosis is often contracted from eating raw eggs or raw poultry or having those products touch other items that are then eaten (such as using the same cutting board for raw chicken and produce). Salmonella can also be found in reptiles and amphibians, like snakes, iguanas, turtles, lizards and frogs that people keep as pets. Salmonella can be transmitted to people by touching and handling those animals even when they appear healthy and clean.
Handwashing should always be encouraged after playing with pets, especially in young children. Salmonella can occasionally be found on contaminated produce items, so all produce should be thoroughly washed and scrubbed before eating. In general, the FDA recommends thoroughly washing and scrubbing the rinds of all cantaloupes and melons prior to cutting and slicing, and to keep sliced melons refrigerated prior to eating.
If you believe you have experienced symptoms of salmonellosis, consult your healthcare provider.