Subway Salmonella Outbreak May be Linked to Fresh Produce

We’ve been writing about the ever-growing outbreak of <"">Salmonella that has been linked to the Subway chain in Illinois. Now, The Packer reports that the number of those who have fallen ill has risen to 71 and that seven people remain hospitalized. Citing a state official, The Packer wrote that fresh produce is the likely culprit.

As we previously mentioned and The Packer reiterated, following reports of illnesses, Subway began replacing some of its produce supplies. The Illinois Department of Public Health is collaborating with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Subway restaurant chain, and local health departments. Subway voluntarily withdrew and replaced all its lettuce, green peppers, red onions, and tomatoes from the impacted dates. Produce distributors are being investigated, said the Packer.

In all, 26 people were hospitalized, according to Melaney Arnold, communications manager for the Illinois Department of Public Health, wrote the Packer. Those hospitalized ranged in age from two to 88

Last week, we wrote that The Health Department, said Business Week, was urging those who fell ill after eating at Subway restaurants since May 10 to immediately contact either their health care provider or local health department. Everyone who reported becoming sick said they fell ill between May 11 and May 18 the News-Gazette reported.

At last count, illnesses were linked to Subway restaurants in the following counties in Illinois, said Business Week: Bureau, Cass, Champaign, Christian, Coles, DeWitt, Fulton, Knox, LaSalle, Lee, Livingston, Macon, Marshall, Moultrie, Ogle, Peoria, Sangamon, Schuyler, Shelby, Tazewell, Vermilion, Warren, Winnebago, and Will.

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.

Subway restaurants were implicated in prior food poisoning outbreak. We recently wrote about Shigella cases linked to a Subway in Lombard, Illinois, which reached 116. At least 13 of those sickened were hospitalized. In that case, the Shigella bacteria involved were Shigella sonnei, which can be lethal. The DuPage County Health Department never found the source of the Shigella, and concedes it may never be able to.

Shigella is a genus of bacteria that are a major cause of diarrhea worldwide and is transmitted by ingestion of contaminated food or water, or through person-to-person contact. In the body, Shigella can invade and destroy the cells lining the large intestine, causing mucosal ulceration and bloody diarrhea and can cause fever, abdominal cramps, and rectal pain. Shigellosis can be treated with antibiotics, although some strains have developed drug resistance.

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