Subway Salmonella Outbreak Spreads Throughout Illinois

Earlier this week we wrote that the number of those sickened in the ongoing Subway restaurant <"">Salmonella outbreak increased from 34 to 48, citing the News-Gazette. Now, Business Week is reporting that the outbreak in Illinois has expanded even further sickening 68 people, which includes 24 hospitalizations (up from 17, previously 14) and 24 counties (up from 14, later 18).

The Health Department, said Business Week, is 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; those sickened range in age from three to 88, the News-Gazette reported.

Illnesses have now been 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.

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.

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 have been implicated in food poisoning outbreaks in the past. For example, we recently wrote about Shigella cases linked to a single Subway restaurant in Lombard, Illinois, which—at last count—reached 116. According to The Lombard Spectator, that number was confirmed by the DuPage County Health Department. At least 13 of those sickened were hospitalized.

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 bacteria 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, as with many other food borne illnesses, some strains have developed drug resistance.

In the Subway outbreak, the Shigella bacteria involved was Shigella sonnei, which can be lethal. The DuPage County Health Department has not—to date—able to pinpoint the source of the Shigella, and concedes that it may never be able to.

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