New Salmonella Outbreak in Santa Fe

The Associated Press is reporting that New Mexico state health officials are investigating a <"">Salmonella outbreak involving nine people who fell ill after eating at Diego’s Restaurant in Santa Fe from late July to early August.  Patients range in age from five to 62 and reported becoming sick between August 2nd and 7th.  Most of the patrons—eight of the nine—live in Santa Fe County.  The other diner lives in San Miguel County.  Two of the patients were hospitalized.  The investigation continues and involves interviews and testing of patients, food handlers, and food from the restaurant.

Salmonellosis is an infection with a bacterium called Salmonella and 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.  Salmonella poisoning can occur when food is improperly stored or handled and when preparers do not wash their hands or sanitize implements involved in meat storage.  People infected with salmonella develop diarrhea—which may be bloody, fever, nausea, vomiting, 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 recover without treatment, but the elderly, infants, and people with impaired immune systems may require treatment and—in some—hospitalization is required because the infection may have spread from the intestines to the blood stream and other body sites.  Without treatment, severe cases can result in death and some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals.  A small number of persons infected with Salmonella will go on to develop pains in their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination—a condition called Reiter’s syndrome—which can last for months or years and can lead to chronic arthritis; antibiotic treatment does not make a difference in whether or not the person later develops arthritis.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports that federal inspectors at U.S. border crossings repeatedly turned back filthy, disease-ridden produce shipments in the months prior to the recent Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that sickened 1,400 people.  In that case, no significant action was taken by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  FDA food safety chief Dr. David Acheson acknowledged that recent FDA testing of certain Mexican produce found more cases of Salmonella contamination, from a different strain, in jalapenos, basil, and cilantro.

The recent Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak revealed that, years ago, the government acquiesced to lobbyists and refused to implement an electronic record-keeping system that could have more quickly determined the source of the outbreak that was linked to raw Mexican peppers.  Many feel that such a system could have avoided the record delays and additional illnesses seen in what is considered the largest Salmonella outbreak in this nation’s history.  Experts also believe if better record keeping was in place, tomatoes might not have been mistakenly blamed in that outbreak.

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