More salmonella cases in Pa. & NJ

June 19, 2008 5:17:33 PM PDT
The five cases reported in Pennsylvania are in Bucks Lancaster, Montgomery, Butler and Warren Counties and one case reported in Camden County New Jersey. Most of this newest influx of cases were people who got sick weeks ago but hadn't been counted yet. Some states began doing a better job of checking for salmonella as the outbreak has dragged on, while part of the surge comes from test results that had been backlogged in jammed laboratories.

What hasn't changed is that the earliest known victim got sick on April 10, and the latest on June 5.

But New Hampshire and Pennsylvania reported their first cases, bringing to 30 the number of states - plus Washington, D.C. - that have reported sick residents, although some may have been infected while traveling. At least 48 people have been hospitalized.

While federal agencies continue to investigate the source of the salmonella tainted tomatoes, the government has cleared tomatoes grown in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. So, the local farm stand may be the best bet. In Pennsylvania, the latest case involves a 15-year old Montgomery County boy, who did not need hospitalization and is recuperating, according to county health officials. Four people were sickened in late May in Bucks, Butler, Lancaster and Warren counties, said Stacy Kriedeman, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health. Officials believe two of those cases involved exposure outside Pennsylvania, she said.

Kriedeman said the department could not release details about the victims or the degree of their illness, but she said the onset of salmonella typically occurs 24 to 72 hours after exposure and victims usually recover in five to seven days.

About 2,000 cases of salmonella are reported in Pennsylvania each year, she said.

Grocery chains like Acme and restaurant chains have been scrambling to find new supplies of tomatoes they know are not tainted.

They are back on the shelves, but apparently not back in many shopping carts.

The Pennsylvania victims became ill late last month. The Camden County victim is a 34-year-old woman who started getting sick earlier this month.

None of the cases have been fatal.

The FDA recommends avoiding red plum, red roma and red round tomatoes.

It is safe to eat cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and tomatoes that are on the vine.

Despite those assurances, shoppers seem to be avoiding all tomatoes.

While federal agencies continue to investigate the source of the salmonella tainted tomatoes, the government has cleared tomatoes grown in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The local farm stand may be the best bet.

It might be impossible to trace the ultimate source of the tainted tomatoes, the Food and Drug Administration's food safety chief warned Wednesday.

"I know there is a great deal of frustration" that the mystery hasn't been solved, said Dr. David Acheson, the FDA's associate commissioner for foods. "We're continuing to work flat-out."

But tomatoes are among the hardest foods to trace in an outbreak, because people seldom have any left by the time they get sick and they're sold without tags to help trace their suppliers.

The FDA has said that parts of Mexico and Florida are the most likely sources of the contamination because they were supplying most of the nation's tomatoes when the outbreak began. But Acheson said he was "trying to inject a note of realism" that the longer his probe lasts, the less likely he'll find the actual farm.

"As every day passes, it gets just a little more tricky," he said. "I'm still optimistic but I'm trying to be realistic."

As part of the probe, the FDA has asked Mexican health authorities to check whether they have any cases of this exact strain of salmonella Saintpaul, the subtype involved.

The FDA continues to urge consumers nationwide to avoid raw red plum, red Roma or red round tomatoes unless they were grown in specific states or countries that FDA has cleared of suspicion. Check FDA's Web site - http://www.fda.gov - for an updated list. Also safe are grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and tomatoes sold with the vine still attached.


Load Comments