The cucumber Salmonella outbreak has a higher-than-average hospitalization rate. At this point it’s not clear if underlying reason has to do with patient ages, antibiotic resistance, a particularly virulent strain or a combination of all three.
Salmonella sickens more than a million Americans each year. Of those, about 40,000 are so sick they require hospitalization and about 400 die. With Salmonella outbreaks, the typical hospitalization rate is 20 percent. In this outbreak, it’s 33 percent.
More than half of those sickened in this outbreak, which includes 291 cases in 27 states, are children under 18. Children are among those at highest risk for Salmonella, with infection rates for children under 5 quintuple the rate for all other ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Children are also among those most likely to have severe infections, the kind that migrate from the digestive track to the bloodstream and pose life-threatening risk without hospitalization.
On September 7, the national food safety law firm PritzkerOlsen, which underwrites Food Poisoning Bulletin, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family of child who was sickened in this outbreak. That child became ill after eating cucumbers on a salad at Red Lobster. Red Lobster and Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce are both named as a defendants.
Others in the high-risk group for Salmonella are the elderly, and the immunocompromised. The only fatality in this outbreak was a 99-year-old San Diego woman. Health officials have not yet released information about how the outbreak strains Salmonella Poona responds to antibiotics. On September 4, the CDC said its National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System laboratory was conducting tests of antibiotic resistance on samples collected from those who became ill.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection usually develop within six to 72 hours of exposure and include fever, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea that can be bloody. Typically, these symptoms last between four and seven days.
In this outbreak, those sickened, who range in age from less than 1 year to 99, reported onset of symptoms from July 3, 2015 to August 26, 2015. Several clusters of illness were identified, some linked to restaurants. So far, only Red Lobster has been named.
Health officials used the illness clusters as a starting point for a traceback investigation that led them to produce distributor Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce of San Diego. The cucumbers in question were grown in Mexico and distributed by Andrew and Williamson. The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency visited the facility, collected samples, tested them and found Salmonella.
Andrew and Williamson issued a recall for the cucumbers distributed from August 1 to September 3, but consumers have been given very little information to go on. The recalled cucumbers have all been removed from stores but had been sold at some locations of the following stores: Walmart, Savemart, Food 4 Less , Winco and Ralphs. Other stores may also have sold the recalled cucumbers.
So far the 291 cases reported by state are: Alaska (8), Arizona (66), Arkansas (6), California (51), Colorado (14), Idaho (8), Illinois (5), Kansas (1), Louisiana (3), Minnesota (12), Missouri (7), Montana (11), Nebraska (2), Nevada (7), New Mexico (15), New York (4), North Dakota (1), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (5), Oregon (3), South Carolina (6), Texas (9), Utah (30), Virginia (1), Washington (9), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (3).