March 18 11:57 AM
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Dept. of Health warns of new salmonella outbreak

To the Editor:

The Michigan Department of Community Health issued a press release on January 8 regarding a multistate investigation of an outbreak of salmonella typhimurium, which is a specific strain of the salmonella bacteria. It is often difficult to identify sources of salmonella exposure. Previous outbreaks include contaminated poultry, produce, raw milk and cheese and contact with animals like small turtles.

Salmonella causes gastrointestinal symptoms, including a sudden onset of headache, fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Twenty cases have been reported from 14 counties in Michigan. The Centers for Disease Control are working with public health officials in 42 states to investigate the outbreak.

Lapeer County reported a case of salmonella typhimurium in November, 2008 in a 19-year-old resident who attends Saginaw Valley State University. This student was not living in Lapeer County at the time of her illness and she has recovered.

Over the past two months Michigan has seen a surge in cases of viral gastrointestinal illness, what people once called the "stomach flu." This illness includes vomiting, diarrhea and chills. The illness typically lasts 24-48 hours. Lapeer County Health Department has received many reports recently from residents that are consistent with this type of illness.

The Lapeer County Health Department recommends that residents should consult their physicians for any gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea that last more than a few days. Residents should also consult their physician if they experience bloody diarrhea, severe vomiting leading to dehydration, or if their immune system is compromised due to certain illnesses, medications or chemotherapy.

If a resident has experienced a gastrointestinal illness involving fever, diarrhea and nausea/vomiting that has lasted longer than a few days they should also contact the Lapeer County Health Department at 810-667-0448 for further investigation.

Because foods of animal origin may be contaminated with salmonella, people should not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry or meat. Persons also should not consume raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products. Produce should be thoroughly washed.

Cross-contamination of foods should also be avoided. Uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.

Careful and regular handwashing is the most important step that residents can take to reduce their exposure to these illnesses.

Stephanie Simmons, BSN, MPA Director/Health Officer, Lapeer County Health Dept.
January 14, 2009

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