Clark County case tied to salmonella outbreak

The salmonella strain that has sickened more than 1,000 people nationally is the source of a Clark County woman’s illness, Southern Nevada Health District officials announced Thursday.

The woman’s illness did not require her hospitalization, said Brian Labus, senior epidemiologist with the district.

“As far as we know, she contracted the disease in Nevada. We just don’t know what the source is,” Labus said. “We really don’t have a way of determining the source. That’s the reason for the investigation.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have linked the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, which spans 41 states, to contaminated tomatoes. Federal health officials say the bacteria also may have come from serrano and jalapeño peppers and fresh cilantro. According to the CDC, illnesses arose between April 10 and June 26.

“This has gone on longer and has been more complicated than anything I’ve worked on at FDA,” David Acheson, the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety chief, said Thursday.

Eleven salmonella cases in Nevada have been linked to the outbreak through genetic testing, said Dr. Ihsan Azzam, the state’s epidemiologist. Two of the individuals are from rural Nevada — Lyon and Douglas counties — and eight are from Washoe County, he said, in addition to the Clark County case.

One person has been hospitalized and is doing well, he said.

Azzam said most of the 10 infected people outside Clark County had not traveled outside Nevada, meaning they contracted the disease in the state. However, he said, “they may have eaten something that was imported into Nevada. That’s the difficulty in determining a source.”

Salmonella is bacteria found in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals. It is typically transmitted when people eat foods such as fruits, uncooked vegetables, chicken, eggs, raw milk and beef that have been contaminated.

Those infected can develop symptoms such as diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after exposure. The illness typically lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.

Not everyone who contracts the disease gets sick, but they can become a source of infection, health officials said.

Salmonella illnesses are frequent in Nevada, health officials said. The Southern Nevada Health District alone receives reports of more than 100 cases a year, Labus said.

“For each salmonella case we learn of, there are tens of cases which we don’t know about,” Azzam said. “But not all people who get sick make it to a doctor and get tested. And not all of the people who go to the doctor and get tested get reported to the state.”

Doctors are required under Nevada law to report salmonella cases to health officials.

Frequent hand washing can prevent the spread of salmonella. “That is really the issue, the essentials of personal hygiene,” Azzam said.

And the government is advising to continue avoiding certain raw tomatoes — red round, plum and Roma — unless they were grown in areas cleared of suspicion by the FDA.

In addition, people at highest risk of severe illness from salmonella should not eat raw jalapeño and serrano peppers, the CDC said. The most vulnerable are the elderly, people with weak immune systems and infants. Serranos are on the list because they’re hard to distinguish from jalapeños.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Annette Wells at awells@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

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