August 19, 2018

Typhoid Outbreak at Qdoba Restaurant in Firestone, CO

A typhoid fever outbreak has been announced in Weld County, Colorado. Three people were sickened after eating at a franchised Qdoba Mexican restaurant in Firestone, Colorado. Two people were hospitalized as a result of their illness.

Salmonella TyphiPublic health officials believe the cause was an infected food handler at the restaurant. That person is no longer working at the restaurant, is not showing signs of the illness, and is receiving medical treatment. Current and former employers are being tested to make sure that no one else is sick. Typhoid fever is caused by Salmonella typhi bacteria.

Dr. Mark E. Wallace, Executive Director of the Weld County Health Department said in a statement, “Typhoid fever is very rare. The good news is the illness is treatable with antibiotics. Simply having eaten at the restaurant is not a reason to see your health care provider. Only those currently exhibiting symptoms should contact their health care provider.”

The symptoms of typhoid fever include a sustained fever as high as 104°F, feeling weak, stomach pains, headache, nonproductive cough, slow heart rate, constipation or diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Some patients develop a rash of flat, rose-colored spots. In rare cases, internal bleeding and death can occur.

The only definitive diagnosis of this illness is with a blood or stool test. If anyone, whether they ate at the Qdoba restaurant in Colorado or not, is experiencing these symptoms they should see a doctor. This illness is quite contagious and can be spread person-to-person.

Salmonella typhi bacteria have been becoming more antibiotic resistant in recent years, which can make the illness more difficult to treat. A report last year issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  showed that Salmonella typhi resistance to quinolone drugs increased to 68% in 2012.

There have not been any reports of more illnesses since mid-October. This disease is a reportable illness. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued a statewide message to doctors and health care providers telling them about this outbreak.

Typhoid fever causes about 5,700 cases every year in the United States. There are usually about 5 cases in Colorado every year. Most cases, up to 75%, are acquired while traveling internationally.  This illness is common in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Worldwide, this illness affects 21,000,000 people every year.

This illness is transmitted by eating food or drinking beverages handled by a person who is shedding the bacteria. It can also by spread via contaminated drinking water, if sewage systems are not good.

Symptoms usually appear within three days of exposure, but they can be delayed by up to three months after exposure. People usually get sick one to three weeks after they are exposed to the pathogenic bacteria. Unfortunately, some people can recover from the illness but continue to carry and shed the bacteria; those people are called latent carriers. Anyone who is shedding the bacteria should not be working in the food industry.

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