Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Imported Ahi Tuna

The rare and dangerous <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/food_poisoning">Salmonella Paratyphi B is turning up in a number of U.S. states, including on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The Star Bulletin just reported that 10 people in Oahu fell ill after consuming previously frozen imported raw ahi, which is typically used for poke.

The cases took place between February 27 and April 6, with victims ranging in age from five to 35 years of age; half were under age 18, according to Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the Department of Health. Two of the victims required hospitalization.

An additional 13 cases have been reported in California, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York as of April 12, said the Health Department, according to the Star Bulletin. The health department said it is collaborating with the states and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine if raw ahi is the culprit in those cases and has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) look into international frozen raw ahi sources, said the Star Bulletin.

While Hawaii also reported 35 confirmed cases of Salmonella Paratyphi B infection on Oahu between October 2007 and February 2008, this recent strain is—while related—not a match molecularly to the recent cases, added the Star Bulletin. The prior cases were also linked to raw imported frozen ahi used in poke; other similar cases were reported in Colorado and California that led to an FDA investigation; the source of that outbreak was never identified.

According to Okubo, Hawaii sees some 300 cases of Salmonella poisoning annually with about 10 of those determined to be Paratyphi B, wrote the Star Bulletin. Hawaii saw 341 cases last year, which included six cases of Paratyphi B and, this year, 84 Salmonella cases have been confirmed; 10 were confirmed to be Paratyphi B, added Okubo.

Salmonella, the most prevalent food borne pathogen in this country, is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.

Salmonella poisoning can also lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis characterized by severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. Some Salmonella bacteria are antibiotic resistant, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals. We recently wrote that a report from the Produce Safety Project found that food borne illnesses are cost the U.S. $152 billion annually with one-quarter—$39 billion—the result of food borne illnesses associated with fresh, canned and processed produce. According to the federal government, 76 million people each year come down with some form of food poisoning; hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and about 5,000 die.

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