Four county residents part of rare typhoid fever outbreak


Four people in Clark County are among the few nationwide exposed to a rare U.S. outbreak of typhoid fever, which has been linked to a frozen tropical fruit product used to make smoothies, health officials reported Thursday.

The four patients from Clark County, all under 30 years old, have recovered, officials at the Southern Nevada Health District said.

There have been seven confirmed cases; the other three were in California. Two other possible cases in California are under investigation. No one has died, but at least five people have been hospitalized.

Brian Labus, the district's senior epidemiologist, said the bacteria are "very severe" but not easily transmitted.

"It sounds like a big deal because of the particular bacteria, but this is not something we see in the United States routinely," Labus said. "The overall risk to the community is very small."

The Centers for Disease Control said five of the victims drank milkshakes or smoothies made with frozen mamey fruit pulp. Four of them used pulp made by Goya Foods Inc. of Secaucus, N.J.

Mamey is a sweet, reddish tropical fruit grown mainly in Central and South America. It is known also as zapote or sapote.

The company has recalled packages of the pulp, sold mostly in Western states. A sample from one package found in Las Vegas tested positive for the bacteria that cause typhoid, the Food and Drug Administration reported Wednesday.

No other food was linked to the illnesses, which occurred between April and July.

"You basically have to swallow this bacteria," Labus said. "The food itself is not widely consumed in the community, and we don't expect to see a lot of cases."

The victims range in age from 4 to 31, CDC spokeswoman Arleen Porcell-Pharr said.

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by a type of bacteria called Salmonella typhi. It has become rare in the United States. There are only about 400 cases annually, and most people contract it while traveling abroad.

Symptoms include a sustained fever as high as 103 to 104 degrees, with headache, weakness, stomach pains or loss of appetite. Some patients have a rash of flat, rose-colored spots. It can be treated with antibiotics.

The disease is still common in the developing world. The bacteria pass through the intestinal tract and often spread to others through feces-tainted food or water.

Labus said the food was likely contaminated during the handling and processing by an infected worker.

"That's how it happens," he said. "It gets into the food or water supply."

Labus said that in his nine years at the district, he can't remember other cases of typhoid fever in Clark County.

The recalled mamey pulp was sold in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

 

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