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NJ Reports Salmonella Cases Linked To Multi-State Outbreak

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Four New Jersey residents have tested positive for the strain of Salmonella Saintpaul that has been linked to tainted tomatoes and caused an outbreak that has sickened more than 600 people in 34 states and the District of Columbia, state Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard announced today.

The four New Jersey cases include two children, a seven-year-old Monmouth County boy who got sick on May 23 and a two-year-old Bergen County boy who got sick on May 27. Two women from Camden County also tested positive, a 41-year-old who got sick on May 30 and a 34-year-old who reported getting sick on June 3.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigators are checking tomato farms, warehouses and packing sheds in Florida and Mexico searching for the source of the outbreak.

Officials from the state Department of Health and Senior Services today began random inspections of wholesale produce processors and distributors to check the source of tomatoes shipped into New Jersey, and to look at the companies’ record keeping practices and handling procedures.

“We have been providing all local Health Departments with updated information about the outbreak and FDA investigation. We also have asked that during the course of their routine inspections, local officials check to make sure that tomatoes are only coming into New Jersey from states and countries the FDA says have been ruled out as a source of the outbreak,” Commissioner Howard said.

Harvesting of New Jersey’s field grown tomato crop will not begin until next week, according to Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus. Earlier this month, New Jersey was added to the FDA list of states whose tomatoes have been ruled out as a cause of the recent outbreak, officially making tomatoes grown here safe for sale and consumption, he said.

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The specific type and source of tomatoes is under investigation. However, federal investigators have said that illnesses are linked to consumption of raw red plum, red Roma, or round red tomatoes, or any combination of these types of tomatoes, and to products containing these raw tomatoes from specific geographic locations in Florida or Mexico.

Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after infection. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. The illness usually lasts 4-7 days.

The Bergen County boy has recovered from his illness, and the Camden County women currently are not hospitalized. No further information is available on the health status of these cases or of the Monmouth County boy.

“Most people recover without treatment, although severe infections may occur. The elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to develop severe illness,” said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, DHSS Deputy Commissioner and State Epidemiologist.

When severe infection occurs, Salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites, and can cause death. In these severe cases, antibiotic treatment may be necessary.

No deaths have been officially attributed to this outbreak. However, a man in his sixties who died in Texas from cancer had an infection with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul at the time of his death. The infection may have contributed to his death.

Only three persons infected with this strain of Salmonella Saintpaul were identified in the U.S. during the same period in 2007. The previous rarity of this strain and the distribution of illnesses in all U.S. regions suggest that the implicated tomatoes are distributed throughout much of the country. Because of inherent delays in reporting and because many persons with Salmonella illness do not have a stool specimen tested, it is likely many more illnesses have occurred than those reported.