Rare Salmonella subtype sickens 34 in Illinois

Jun 4, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – State and county health officials in Illinois are investigating an outbreak involving a rare Salmonella subtype that has sickened 34 people who reportedly developed symptoms after eating at Subway restaurants.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said in a statement yesterday that the outbreak involves a rare serotype, Salmonella enterica Hvittingfoss. The IDPH said it usually sees only one or two Salmonella Hvittingfoss infections each year. The Subway restaurants the sick patients reported eating at are located in 14 central Illinois counties.

Reports of illnesses began on May 14, and the latest onset date was May 25. Patient ages range from 6 to 88 years. Fourteen people were hospitalized, and all are recovering, according to the IDPH.

Though the outbreak strain has not been confirmed in a Subway product, the company is cooperating with health officials and has withdrawn lettuce, green peppers, red onion, and tomatoes from the dates illnesses were reported and replaced them with new produce, the IDPH said.

In other foodborne illness developments, the number of patients sickened in a Salmonella Newport outbreak linked to alfalfa sprouts has grown by 7 to 35, with the number of affected states rising to 11 with the addition of Pennsylvania, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported yesterday.

Of 30 patients for whom the CDC has information, 7 (23%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The CDC said an investigation is continuing at the sprout processor, Caldwell Fresh Foods, based in Maywood, Calif. The company recalled the sprouts on May 21, some of which were sold at two major national retail outlets, Walmart and Trader Joe's.

Meanwhile, in a Minnesota investigation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections in four people who drank raw milk from a dairy in Gibbon, Minn., state laboratory officials confirmed the outbreak strain in multiple animals and at multiple sites at the farm, according to a statement from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).

Lab testing also found another form of Shiga toxin–producing E coli in a cheese sample collected at the farm, which the MDA says demonstrates an ongoing contamination pathway at the site.

Minnesota health officials have also confirmed a fifth case linked to the outbreak, a young child who was not hospitalized. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is investigating several other illnesses linked to products from the farm, and the MDA has embargoed the facility's dairy products.

MDH Commissioner Dr Sanne Magnan said in the MDA statement that drinking raw milk poses a serious health risk. "This risk isn’t a matter of personal opinion; it's an established scientific fact. Drinking raw milk or eating products made from raw milk can expose consumers to a variety of organisms that can result in anything from a few days of diarrhea to kidney failure and death," she said.

"Raw milk is especially dangerous for children, whose immune systems can't fight off infection as well as healthy adults."

See also:

Jun 3 Illinois Department of Public Health press release

Jun 3 CDC update

Jun 3 MDA statement

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