After sickening 18 people, the Salmonella outbreak at Heritage Corner Assisted Living facility in Bowling Green, Ohio is likely over, health officials say. Two residents who tested positive for Salmonella have died, but county health investigators can’t say if the death was related to the illness. The investigation into the outbreak began May 27th, after the Wood County Health District was notified that Heritage Corner residents had tested positive for Salmonella. No new cases have been reported since June 10th.
The investigation has included officials from Wood County, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), including a Food Safety Specialist with the ODH Food Safety Program and ODH’s Division of Quality Assurance.
“Our hearts go out to the residents, employees and their families affected by this outbreak,” states Health Commissioner Ben Batey. “We truly appreciate all of the cooperation from the residents who have participated in the investigation during this difficult time in their lives.”
All residents who developed symptoms since May 27th have been tested for Salmonella. Some test results are still pending but it have been six days since the last new report of a resident with symptoms. The incubation period for Salmonella is 6 to 72 hours.
A food source for the outbreak has not been identified. Patients were interviewed about their food histories and possible exposures. No major problems were identified when the kitchen was inspected and the kitchen manager was interviewed about food preparation practices and food sources.Common areas were briefly closed while they were sanitized.
“Unfortunately, in many outbreaks we never find out the initial cause,” said Connor Rittwage, epidemiologist. “There can be so many variables when you’re talking about what people eat and do over the potential exposure period, that it can be difficult to identify one single common link.”
Salmonella is an enteric bacterium, which means that it lives in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals. Salmonella bacteria are usually transmitted when humans eat food contaminated with human or animal feces.
Food that is contaminated with Salmonella does not look, smell or taste off. Symptoms of an infection include nausea, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Seniors are among those most at-risk for Salmonella poisoning.