By: James Peacock and Candess Zona-Mendola
Health officials across the state of Wisconsin have begun to track a now confirmed outbreak of Salmonella poisoning that has impacted four different counties. There have been eight illnesses connected to this outbreak, with Brown County being the hardest hit. Illnesses have also been reported in Fond Du Lac County, Dane County, and Rock County. Brown County is the location of Green Bay, Wisconsin. A farmers’ market in Green Bay is currently believed to be the source of the outbreak. Shelled peas at the farmers’ market on July 22 may have been contaminated, prompting health officials to remind consumers to properly wash produce prior to eating it. However, health officials have said that there is no need to stop buying peas, only more caution is required. Anyone who bought shelled peas from any of the three farmers markets between July 19 and August 5 should through them out to help prevent illness. Health officials have not released any information about the conditions of those sickened in the outbreak.
Currently, the media has released the following farmers’ markets have confirmed links to the outbreak:
- Dane County Farmers Market in Madison located on the capital square (Saturdays) or Martin Luther King Blvd (Wednesdays)
- Downtown Green Bay Farmers Market (Saturdays)
- Fond du Lac Farmers Market (Saturdays) in downtown Fond du Lac
The peas believed to be the cause of the outbreak were already peeled and shelled prior to sale.
The media has also reported that it is believed that the peas at the source of this outbreak are likely no longer being sold. Despite this, however, proper washing of vegetables and cooking is recommended to help prevent illness and potential cross-contamination.
Salmonella infections, commonly referred to as Salmonellosis, make up one of the most common forms of foodborne illness in the United States. The CDC estimates that up to 1.2 million cases of Salmonella poisoning occur each year. This estimate includes the fact that many Salmonella cases go unreported and undiagnosed. The tracking of Salmonellosis first took place in 1962, but scientists have been aware of the bacterium for at least the last 125 years. The work of Dr. Salmon and his assistant, Theobald Smith, allowed for the isolation of Salmonella bacteria just 30 years after the acceptance of germ theory. Since that time, the bacteria that make up the Salmonella enterica species have been found to have a variety of strains, or serotypes. These serotypes are based on the various antigens found on the surface and flagella of the bacteria. At the first usage of this method of categorization, 44 different serotypes had been identified. Today there are more than 2000 known serotypes of Salmonella bacteria, but most of them are uncommon sources of foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections are usually caused by Salmonella serotypes Enteritidis, Typhimurium, Newport, javiana, Heidelberg, I 4,, 12:i:-, Muenchen, Montevideo, and Saintpaul.
Out of the CDC estimated 1.2 million annual cases of illness, about 19,000 of them require hospitalization, and about 450 deaths occur annually. While there are actually two distinct types of illness that can be caused by Salmonella bacteria, nontyphoidal salmonellosis and typhoid fever, nontyphoidal salmonellosis is by far the more common type. In fact, there has not been an outbreak of typhoid fever caused by Salmonella since 1999. Salmonellosis will usually produce symptoms within a 6 to 72 hour window after exposure to the bacteria. The symptoms produced by salmonellosis will generally include headaches, fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Recovery from a case of Salmonella poisoning will typically start after about a day, but symptoms can last for up to a week. There is a chance that the infection will worsen and cause one of several complications. The most common of these complications is dehydration. Severe dehydration can potentially be very serious, and will often cause hospitalization to be required. Other complications include reactive arthritis and septicemia, also known as blood poisoning. While both of these complications are very serious, they are much less common than dehydration. Those with certain risk factors, including the elderly, children, and others with suppressed immune systems are at an increased risk of developing a more serious case of Salmonellosis. These risk factors also heighten the chance that one of the many complications associated with Salmonella poisoning will occur. Salmonella bacteria can be found in a wide variety of foods and drinks, so it is important to practice proper food safety techniques in order to reduce the chance of infection. Salmonella has been known to cause outbreaks through meats, poultry, eggs, fish, yeast, shrimp, milk, dairy products, spices, coconut, raw egg, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables, and chocolate. If you or a loved one begins to show the symptoms of Salmonella poisoning, contact a medical professional.
During this outbreak, the Wisconsin health officials have offered the following recommendations to prevent the spread of the outbreak and reduce the risk of foodborne illness generally:
- “Thoroughly wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating
- Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees or below
- Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled
- Never prepare food for others if you have diarrhea or vomiting
- Report suspected food poisoning to your local health department”
In the meantime, UnsafeFoods will continue to provide coverage on this outbreak as the details unfold.