Seven employees of Ajuua’s Mexican Restaurant in Odessa, Texas, have tested positive for Salmonella infections. At least four customers have been sickened in this outbreak associated with the restaurant. The number of lab-confirmed cases stands at 11. There are 23 probable cases that have not been confirmed yet; lab results are pending.
Public health officials do not know if the employees were sickened by food at the restaurant, or if the illness was passed among them. Officials also do not know if the employees were sick while they were preparing or serving food.
The age range of patients, according to OAonline, is 36 to 84. Thirteen of the probable cases are men, seven are women, and three are not identified. At least two people have been hospitalized as a result of their illnesses.
The restaurant closed on Monday, June 6, 2016, after complaints about illness were received by the health department. An inspection at the facility after the complaints were filed found some issues, such as non-dated food in the cooler, not keeping food separated and protected during preparation, no hand sanitizer in the hand sink. All of these issues could potentially cause a food poisoning outbreak. Follow-up inspections over the weekend found no problems.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal cramps, chills, headache, muscle cramps, and diarrhea that may be bloody. Symptoms usually start 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the pathogenic bacteria. Most people get better on their own within a week, but some people do become sick enough to be hospitalized.
Anyone who has a diarrheal illness should never prepare, handle, or serve food for others. In fact, those working in the restaurant business, the health care field, daycare, or schools who have a diarrheal illness should see a doctor, and have a negative stool sample before they do return to work.
Salmonella food poisoning can be spread through person-to-person contact, through contact with contaminated surfaces, or through contaminated food or drink. Cross-contamination, caused by uncooked food touching other food served raw or already cooked, or people not washing their hands after using the bathroom, is another common way these illnesses spread.