Caterer Linked To Three North Dakota Salmonella Outbreaks

A caterer from North Dakota has been linked to three separate outbreaks of <"">Salmonella poisoning. The Jamestown Sun reported that the North Dakota Department of Health is looking into a third food-borne illness outbreak connected to an unlicensed caterer, citing State Epidemiologist Kirby Kruger.

The third outbreak has been associated with a wedding held Saturday, June 20, 2009, in McClusky, N.D., said the Jamestown Sun, adding that the Department of Health has received 15 reports of people falling ill following a wedding catered by Aggie Jennings. Four people have required medical care; no hospitalizations have been reported, said the Jamestown Sun.

Those who have fallen ill have reported symptoms that point to Salmonella poisoning, said the Jamestown Sun, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and fever. Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella poisoning often experience fever, diarrhea which may be bloody, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis, and arthritis.

Earlier this month, Jennings catered a wedding in Washburn and a family reunion in Wilton, both in N.D. and both on June 13, said the Jamestown Sun. A total of 60 people fell ill; 25 required medical care, nine were hospitalized, and two were in intensive care, added the Jamestown Sun. The First District Health Unit, Minot, and the N.D. Department of Health have both advised Jennings to stop catering until she obtains a license to cater; First District also issued a “cease-and-desist” letter ordering Jennings to stop catering, said the Jamestown Sun.

“It’s important for people to know that if they are hired to cook and provide food for events, they must be licensed. Anyone planning to hire a caterer for an upcoming event should ask to see his or her license or call their local public health unit or the state health department to verify licensure,” said Kenan Bullinger, director of the Department of Health’s Division of Food and Lodging, quoted the Jamestown Sun.

Kruger concluded that, “With this third outbreak, the signs point to the caterer as the likely source,” said the Jamestown Sun. “Preliminary laboratory tests indicate the strain of Salmonella is the same as a strain commonly found in baby chicks. We have learned that there are chicks on Ms. Jennings’ farm, but we still need to investigate further to pinpoint the exact source of these illnesses,” Kruger added.

Some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals. Salmonella is usually found in food contaminated with animal feces and is a group of bacteria that passes from the feces of people or animals to other people or animals, causing contamination when food is improperly stored or handled and when preparers do not wash their hands or sanitize implements involved in food storage.

Salmonella is the most frequently reported cause of food-related outbreaks of stomach illness worldwide and Salmonella poisoning can lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis characterized by severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.

People who attended the wedding and fell ill are urged to contact their health-care provider and the North Dakota Department of
Health at 1-701-328-2378 or toll-free at 1-800-472-2180.

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