People living in Utah, Colorado, and Montana have been hit by the Salmonella outbreak linked to Andrew & Williamson imported cucumbers. At least 30 people in Utah have been sickened by Salmonella Poona bacteria; 14 are sick in Colorado, and 11 in Montana.
The cucumbers, which were imported from Baja, Mexico, were grown and packed by Rancho Don Juanito and distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce in California. The cucumbers that were distributed from August 1, 2015 through September 3, 2015 have been recalled by the company.
It’s important to note, however, that illnesses in this outbreak began on July 3, 2015, meaning that cucumbers sold before August 1, 2015 were also likely contaminated with the pathogenic bacteria. But the shelf life of cucumbers is about one week, which is why the recall was limited to just a few weeks. In addition, consumers may have frozen cucumbers, juice, or pulp and have that food stored in home freezers. That should be thrown away.
Investigators have interviewed 80 patients in this outbreak so far. Seventy-three percent, or 58 of them, reported eating cucumbers the week before they got sick. That is higher than the usual rate of 55% of those not sickened who consumed cucumbers in July, which gave officials their first clue.
In this outbreak, ill persons range in age from less than 1 year to 99 years, with a median age of 13. Fifty-four percent, or 153 patients, are children younger than 18 years. Fifty-seven percent of patients are female. And among 160 people with available information, 53, or 33%, have been hospitalized.
That hospitalization rate of 33% is much higher than the average rate of 20% usually seen in Salmonella outbreaks. This may be because so many patients are children, or it may be because the strain of Salmonella Poona in this outbreak is resistant to antibiotics; we don’t know yet. Officials are testing the bacteria to see if it is resistant.
Investigations by public health officials have traced the outbreak back to Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce as the “likely source” of infections in this outbreak. The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency did find Salmonella bacteria at the Andrew & Williamson facility in San Diego, but testing to determine if it is the outbreak strain is not yet completed.
The cucumbers were sold in bulk bins in grocery stores, including Walmart, and most likely did not have any identifying stickers or marks. The cucumbers are “slicer” or “American” cucumbers, about 7 to 10 inches long, dark green, and about 1.75 to 2 inches in diameter. Some restaurants, including Red Lobster, also sold the cucumbers to consumers, most likely in salads.
If you purchased slicer cucumbers this summer, or ate cucumbers in a restaurant, and have experienced the symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning, see your doctor. Most people recover within about a week from this infection, but some people can become seriously ill, and long term consequences of a Salmonella illness can be serious. It’s important that your doctor note this illness on your chart.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include diarrhea that may be bloody, abdominal cramps, fever, nausea, and vomiting. They usually appear six to seventy-two hours after exposure. Salmonella infections can spread to the blood, and can cause death unless the patient is treated with antibiotics.