The Salmonella Poona outbreak linked to cucumbers imported by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce has grown to 732 sick persons, with four dead. One person has died in Oklahoma, adding to the death toll of one person each in Arizona, California, and Texas. Maryland was added to the states included in the outbreak, bringing the total number of states involved to 35.
One hundred fifty ill people have been hospitalized, which is a rate of 28%, higher than the typical 20% hospitalization rate in these outbreaks. The case count by state is: Alabama (1), Alaska (14), Arizona (114), Arkansas (11), California (192), Colorado (18), Hawaii (1), Idaho (24), Illinois (9), Indiana (3), Iowa (6), Kansas (2), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (5), Maryland (1), Minnesota (37), Missouri (11), Montana (14), Nebraska (6), Nevada (14), New Mexico (31), New York (6), North Dakota (6), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (12), Oregon (20), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Texas (34), Utah (53), Virginia (1), Washington (22), Wisconsin (40), and Wyoming (7). Illnesses started on dates ranging from July 3, 2015 to September 25, 2015. Fifty percent of those sickened are children younger than 18 years.
Illnesses that occurred after September 8, 2015 may not yet be reported to public health officials, since it can take time for lab tests to be returned. There will also be a delay between the time when someone gets sick and confirmation that they are part of an outbreak.
According to the epi curve, which is a chart of cases reported by date, this outbreak is slowing down, but is not over. Two recalls have been issued since the outbreak began; one on September 4, 2015 for all Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce sold under the “Limited Edition” brand label, and one on September 11, 2015 by Custom Produce Sales for all cucumbers sold under the Fat Boy label.
Illnesses may continue to be reported since cucumbers have a shelf life of about two weeks. Some people may have purchased cucumbers September 4 or September 11, 2015, and eaten them two weeks later. It usually takes six hours to three days for symptoms to appear. It then takes more time to see a doctor, submit a stool sample, and for lab analysis of that sample to be returned.
The cucumbers in question are dark green, about 7 to 10 inches long, and about 1.75 to 2.5 inches in diameter. They have a large seed cavity and are sold as “slicer” or “American” cucumbers. These items are usually sold in bulk bins in supermarkets without any identification marks or codes. The cucumbers were also sold at restaurants, particularly Red Lobster restaurants, as part of salads.
We do know that the cucumbers were sold in select Walmart, Winco, Food 4 Less, Ralphs, and Savemart stores, and may have been sold at In-N-Out Burger, Capital Grille, and Olive Garden. The government has not released a distribution list indicating where the cucumbers were sold, but we do know they were shipped to Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. They may have been distributed to other states as well.
If you ate cucumbers in the last three months and have suffered the symptoms of a Salmonella infection, see your doctor. Those symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that may be bloody. Even if you recover fully without medical treatment, long term complications of this infection can be serious, including reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and heart problems.