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|01-25-03: Salmonella is likely linked to East school
|By SHELLEY GRIESHOP
The Daily Standard
Local health officials reported Friday there were no new salmonella
poisonings to add to the 12 people who mysteriously contracted the bacterial infection in
Officials at the local and state level said "it appears" 11
of the salmonella cases are somehow linked to Celina East Elementary School. Eight of the
cases involve children who attend kindergarten through third-grade at the school. Others
confirmed with the illness include a fifth-grade student at Celina Intermediate School, an
adult who is employed at the East elementary school and a St. Marys adult who officials
say has a connection to East elementary.
The other person confirmed with salmonella poisoning is an adult who
authorities believe was not connected to the school in any way.
Sally Bowman, nursing director for the Mercer County Health Department, said
preliminary tests show nearly all of the nine children and two adults linked to the school
were infected by the same type of bacteria.
"The common stereotype found was consistent with what you would see, for
example, in undercooked eggs," Bowman said.
More tests are being performed at the state health department
laboratory in Columbus in an attempt to pinpoint the exact source of the contamination.
Officials locally and in Columbus refuse to speculate on what could be the source of the
bacteria until all test results are complete.
Of the 12 cases, five of the victims were hospitalized for treatment.
Symptoms of salmonella poisoning are similar to influenza. Diarrhea, vomiting and fever
are common and generally last for several days. Dehydration can occur and sometimes
antibiotics are prescribed to recover from the infection.
Salmonella bacteria can be found in undercooked meats and egg products
and spread by improperly handling raw meat and other unsanitary practices.
Kristopher Weiss, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Public Health,
said 1,300-1,600 cases of salmonella poisoning are confirmed across the state of Ohio each
"Many of the cases we see each year are isolated, one here and one
there," he said. "Then all at once we'll get a situation like Young's
Weiss was referring to contaminated skim milk that was bottled in late
November 2002 at Young's Dairy Farm near Yellow Springs in Clark County. More than 50
people become ill after consuming products made from the milk.
Weiss said the state health department is currently performing tests on
samples provided to them by Mercer County officials. He could give no details or a date
for the tests completion.
According to information provided by the state health department,
salmonella bacteria can spread from person to person and from place to place through fecal
matter contact of any kind. A person carrying the bacteria in his or her stool may not
always present symptoms, but the bacteria can still be transmitted to others even months
after a person is contaminated.
Generally, the body gets rid of the infection within three to five
weeks after contamination.
It's been difficult for Mercer County officials to find a link among
those who have tested positive for the illness. Of the eight children afflicted with the
bacteria, there are two each in kindergarten, first, second and third grades. The school
cafeteria seems to be the most likely sources, but Bowman said several of the children
pack their lunch periodically.
Bowman said the next step in the investigation is to take stool samples
from healthy staff members at East school. Some of the adults may not have exhibited
symptoms but could still have contracted a mild version of the illness, she explained.
More confirmed cases could help officials find the source, she added.
Salmonella poisoning can only be confirmed by laboratory tests.
Health officials in Allen, Darke and Van Wert counties told The Daily
Standard on Friday they have not had a confirmed case of salmonella poisoning yet this
year. An average of three to 15 cases of the bacteria are typically confirmed each year in
Mercer County and the surrounding counties.
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