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Will the Great Salmonella Saintpaul Tomato Outbreak End With A Bang or A Whimper?

This weekend began with news from both the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

The FDA gave the impression it was closing in on the source of the contaminated tomatoes, sending teams into areas of both Mexico and Florida to some specific farms that might finally turn up who is responsible for the outbreak.    FDA said:

The FDA is now working to narrow the investigation. As part of this, the agency is sending teams of multi-disciplinary experts to both Mexico and Florida this weekend to conduct joint inspections of the farms and other critical points on the supply chain where the tomatoes may have become contaminated.

The FDA investigators will conduct joint inspections with regulators in Mexico and Florida at the farms and other distribution points. Meanwhile, the FDA will continue to collect samples of tomatoes and conduct traceback activities.

To further narrow the investigation, the FDA is working with the state of Texas to traceback a cluster of illnesses recently found by the state of Texas. We are hopeful that this will provide additional information to bring the agency closer to the source of the contamination.

The FDA is working jointly with Mexico and Florida and other states to update the list of areas not associated with the outbreak and will continue to post the information on the web site.

While painting a target on Mexico, FDA at the same time added most Mexican states to the
list of "safe" tomato growing areas.

The "safe" areas now include  include the Mexican states of: Aguascalientes, Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Colima, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Distrito Federal, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, México, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Tobasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán, Zacatecas.

The only Mexican state bordering on the U.S. not on the "safe" list is Coahuila.

CDC’s list of confirmed cases of Salmonella Saintpaul connected to the tainted tomatoes was 552 as the weekend began.   It said 32 states and the District of Columbia were involved.   New Jersey and Rhode Island were the latest states added to the outbreak list.

So, will FDA close the case or be left so befuddled that the agency makes Lou Dobbs look profound?   What will it say about Mexico or Florida if either area is named when the music stops?
How high will CDC’s confirmed number of cases go?   Might CDC say something about the liklihood from previous studies that something like 38 people go untreated for every confirmed case of salmonella? 

That, gentle readers, means about 21,000 people are now victims of Salmonella Saintpaul due to bad tomatoes.

As of 6/20/08, CDC said:

Since April, 552 persons infected with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in 32 states and the District of Columbia. These were identified because clinical laboratories in all states send Salmonella strains from ill persons to their State public health laboratory for characterization.

The marked increase in reported ill persons since the last update is not thought to be due to a large number of new infections. The number of reported ill persons increased mainly because some states improved surveillance for Salmonella in response to this outbreak and because laboratory identification of many previously submitted strains was completed. In particular, the number of ill persons reported from Texas markedly increased, and two new states, New Jersey and Rhode Island, reported ill persons.

The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Arkansas (3 persons), Arizona (29), California (8), Colorado (4), Connecticut (4), Florida (1), Georgia (11), Idaho (3), Illinois (34), Indiana (8), Kansas (9), Kentucky (1), Maryland (18), Michigan (4), Missouri (10), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (73), New York (10), North Carolina (1), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (5), Oregon (5), Pennsylvania (5), Rhode Island (2), Tennessee (4), Texas (265), Utah (2), Virginia (20), Vermont (1), Washington (1), Wisconsin (5), and the District of Columbia (1).

Among the 281 persons with information available, illnesses began between April 10 and June 10, 2008. Patients range in age from <1 to 88 years; 49 percent are female. At least 53 persons were hospitalized. No deaths have been officially attributed to this outbreak. However, a man in his sixties who died in Texas from cancer had an infection with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul at the time of his death. The infection may have contributed to his death.

  • But if the investigation finds that the contamination originated in Mexico, will the FDA make an announcement after what Dr. Acheson said about the confidentiality clause in the trade agreement with Mexico?
    What if they do make the announcement; what could happen by breaking the confidentiality agreement?

  • RONDA

    MY 6Y OLD AUTISTIC SON TESTED POSITIVE FOR SALMONELLA S.P. TODAY 06/23/08. HE HAS BEEN ILL SINCE 06/11/08 WITH DIARRHEA AND LOW GRADE FEVER WITH ABDOMINAL PAIN!WE LIVE IN GEORGIA,BESIDES THE MEDICAL TREATMENT, WHAT JUSTICE CAN BE DONE FOR HIM?I HAVE 2 OTHER CHILDREN AND NEVER IN MY LIFE WITNESSED A SICKNESS LIKE THIS ONE! MY HUSBAND AND I WERE COMPLETELY HORRIFIED BY OUR SON’S WORSENING APPEARANCE, AWAITING THIS DREADFUL CONCLUSION! AS IF HE NEEDED ANOTHER ILLNESS TO ADD TO THE LIST. WE WILL NOT BUY ANY MORE TOMATOES!THIS HAS BEEN UNFAIR/ AND MY SON IS SUFFERING!

  • Shaunna

    Hi Ronda, What part of Georgia do you live? I too was diagnosed today with Salmonella. I live in Augusta. I had diarrhea for 2 weeks, but have been fatigued for over 4 weeks now. I also have maintained a low grade fever from the start of my illness. Since I have an autoimmume disorder, and was loosing a consideralbe amount of blood in my stools I had to seek medical help. My doctor wants another culture before putting me on antibiotics. I would rather just take the antibiotics and not pay another $300 for the culture. If you live in this area, maybe we can norrow down the area of contamination. I am pretty sure mine is from salsa at a local restaurant. Thanks! – Shaunna