By: Candess Zona-Mendola

Marquette County, Michigan found itself the center of a Salmonella outbreak linked to raw eggs and Hollandaise sauce. This is the second Salmonella outbreak to hit the state this summer. With 8 potential victims, 4 confirmed and 4 pending confirmation, the health department officials have commenced a full investigation into the outbreak and are trying to identify any additional cases. Early reports from the Marquette County Health Department Director of Environmental Health,

Sources Pending

The health agency has confirmed that the outbreak is linked to raw, unpasteurized eggs that were make into Hollandaise sauce. However, the egg producer and the restaurant implicated in the outbreak have not yet been released by health officials. Director Patrick L. Jacuzzo confirmed that the outbreak is indeed restaurant related. However, the health agency has been unable to obtain food products for testing, as the timing is outside of the potential exposure period. Director Jacuzzo did confirm that the agency is testing samples of product from an undisclosed egg producer. Those results should be back and analyzed soon.

We do know that 6 of the 8 potential victims ate at the unnamed restaurant and 5 recall Hollandaise sauce being a part of their meal. Of these, 3 of the 4 cases with confirmed laboratory testing have proof that they ate at the unnamed restaurant. Director Jacuzzo reportedly told the media that the 4 confirmed victims all have the same Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern for their samples that tested positive for Salmonella.

Salmonella Peaks in Summer

With Norovirus and Campylobacter, Salmonella is among the most common cause of foodborne illness in the United States. The CDC estimates that Salmonella is the cause for “one million foodborne illnesses in the United States, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths.” As with most foodborne illnesses, Salmonella infections tend to peak in the summer months.

Salmonella infections can vary and be mild to severe. Symptoms typically show within 12 to 72 hours after ingestion of contaminated food and/or drinks. Those infected with Salmonella usually exhibit symptoms of diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps – typically for anywhere from four to seven days. In most cases, a person can have a full recovery without the need for medical treatment. Usually supportive care, like keeping hydrated and getting plenty of rest, is all that is needed.

However, for some, especially those in the high risk group for foodborne infections (like children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems), Salmonella can become severe. Children under the age of five are considered the highest risk group. Salmonella can easily lead to dehydration. Also, Salmonella can cause potential long-term complications like reactive arthritis. The bacteria may also cause temporary issues and inflammation of the intestinal tract, which may take several months to return to normal. In more severe cases, a physician may treat those infected with Salmonella with antibiotics.

Marquette County Health Department Offer Advice

Despite the little released informayion on this outbreak at this time, the Marquette County Health officials have offered advice for the residents to help prevent the spread of the outbreak. According to their press release:

“Below are some tips to be used to avoid contracting and spreading foodborne illness:

  • Avoid cross-contamination in your kitchen. Never allow foods that will not be cooked (like salads) to come into contact with raw foods of animal origin (e.g., on dirty countertops, kitchen sinks, or cutting boards).
  • Wash hands after handling raw foods. Kitchen work surfaces and utensils should be washed with soap and water, and sanitized with a bleach solution, immediately after they have been in contact with raw foods of animal origin.
  • Monitor food temperatures, particularly when picnicking or traveling with foods. As a general rule, cold foods should be kept cold and warm foods should be kept warm.
  • Do not eat or drink foods containing raw or undercooked eggs. Examples include undercooked eggs, homemade eggnog, hollandaise sauce, and undercooked French toast. Eggs should be cooked until they reach 145ºF or until the yoke is solid. Pasteurized eggs are available in some grocery stores.
  • Never drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or cider.
  • Cook food thoroughly, poultry 165 ºF, beef and pork 145ºF, ground beef 155ºF.
  • Remember that it is allowable for restaurants to serve items that include undercooked foods such as rare meat or runny eggs; as long as they warn you that undercooked foods may make you ill.
  • This information is contained in a “menu advisory.” When dining out you should review your menu and be aware of items that may be undercooked. If unsure, ask your waiter.
  • If you are served undercooked meat, poultry, or eggs in a restaurant or at a gathering, don’t hesitate to ask that the food be cooked further. If you choose to eat undercooked meat, poultry, or eggs you are placing yourself at risk of contracting a foodborne illness.”

Sick? Get Medical Attention Right Away

If you believe you are sick with Salmonella, are exhibiting Salmonella symptoms, and reside in Marquette County, urgent medical attention is recommended. Early medical treatment can help reduce the risk of long-term complications, like reactive arthritis, from Salmonella infections.

Your doctor can test for Salmonella through a stool sample. It is also a good idea to ask your provider to report your test results, if you test positive for Salmonella infection. Through routine reporting of foodborne illness, health agencies can identify outbreaks and potentially their sources faster, helping stop and prevent the further spread of outbreaks.

UnsafeFoods will continue to monitor the details of this outbreak and keep you informed as the investigation unfolds.