A rare strain of Salmonella has sickened 14 patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Health officials say the outbreak strain Salmonella Isangi has only been reported four times within the last five years in Michigan, according to the state health department.
Hospitals officials said in a statement to local media that they did not believe the outbreak was caused by contaminated food. So how did they get a foodborne illness?
Health officials are looking at what procedures the patients received, where they stayed within the hospital and who had contact with them while they were there.
Salmonellosis is considered a foodborne illness because Salmonella bacteria are transmitted via the fecal-oral route, meaning that fecal matter containing the bacteria is ingested. If the food itself was not contaminated disease could have been transmitted by a sick hospital employee or visitor who contaminated food or surfaces.
Food Poisoning Bulletin has contacted the Michigan Department of Health for details but but did not hear back before publication.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Salmonella sickens approximately 1.2 million Americans each year, killing 450 of them. Those most at risk for Salmonella infection include children under the age of 5, older adults and those with weakened immune systems.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection include fever, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea that can be bloody. These symptoms usually develop between six and 72 hours of exposure and last about a week. But it can take several months for bowel habits to return to normal.
Salmonella can also have long-term health effects. After initial symptoms resolve, a small number of people develop reactive arthritis which causes eye irritation and painful swelling of joints.