Local Pictures
Classified Ads
 Announce Births
Email Us
Buy A Copy
Local Links

click here to
The Daily

web page consultants:
Servant Technologies


01-28-03: Three more salmonella cases surface in Celina
11 Celina pupils confirmed with the bacterial infection

The Daily Standard
    Three more Celina residents have been confirmed with salmonella poisoning bringing the total number of local people infected with the illness to 15.
    Nine of those who are ill or recovering from the bacterial infection are students at East elementary school, which houses kindergarten through third-graders.
    Sally Bowman, nursing director for the Mercer County Health Department, said the new cases involve a student from East elementary and the child's parent, as well as a student from Celina Middle School.
    "One of the children is currently being treated at a local hospital," Bowman said Monday.
    So far, tests have confirmed the bacteria in 11 children and four adults, including one adult from Auglaize County. The illness can only be confirmed by the testing of stool samples.
    Salmonella poisoning produces flu-like symptoms including severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach cramping, and typically lasts longer than your average 24-hour bug. The illness can lead quickly to dehydration. The bacteria can be found in uncooked or undercooked foods such as eggs, meat and poultry, and can be spread in a variety of ways including cross-contamination during food preparation.
    Food can be contaminated, for example, by an infected food handler who forgot to wash his or her hands after using the bathroom.
    Although salmonella poisoning is rarely life threatening, it can take several months before an infected person's bowel habits are entirely normal again. Also, a small number of infected people develop Reiter's syndrome, which can lead to chronic arthritis.
    Celina's East school appears to be the link among 14 of the 15 people who have been confirmed with the bacteria, although health officials locally and at the state level are still puzzled at the source of the contamination. Samples from various areas within East school including bathrooms and water fountains have been sent to the state health department laboratory in Columbus.
    Michelle Kimmel, director of environmental health in Mercer County, said she recently completed a food history study of all those confirmed with salmonella, recording everything they ate prior to getting sick. The percentages of those who ate in the cafeteria at East elementary prior to becoming ill were quite small, she said.
    Kimmel said officials have gone over food handling methods with cafeteria workers and are more than satisfied with the staff's procedures. The vast majority of food served in the cafeteria is precooked and no raw eggs are used, she said.
    The only answer health officials have been able to provide so far is that all the infected people have the same strain of bacteria. Random stool samples from healthy faculty members at East were taken in the last few days and sent for analysis at the state laboratory to further aid in the investigation.
    "At this point, we're waiting to hear from the state. More test results should arrive by the end of the week," Bowman said. "We may never know the cause, we might never be able to find the common denominator."
    The health department's investigation has been a "Catch 22" of sorts. If there were more cases to study, it might be easier to find a trail back to the source of the contamination. However, more cases means more sick people, and officials at the health department and the school don't want that either.
    Absenteeism at East elementary has climbed from 15 percent a week ago to 17 percent Monday, according to school Principal Matt Miller. The East absences, however, rate third behind other Celina school buildings: West elementary topped the charts at 19.9 percent with 55 children missing classes, and the middle school ranked second with 19.4 percent absent.
    Although the symptoms for flu and salmonella are quite similar, school officials believe most of the children have the flu. School Superintendent Fred Wiswell spoke to a local doctor who said closing the school would likely not help the absenteeism problem.
    Celina teachers are reminding students to thoroughly wash their hands especially after visits to the restroom. Maintenance workers also have beefed up sanitizing measures throughout the school, Miller said.
    The following is a breakdown of the 15 cases confirmed since Jan. 1:
    - Four are adults - one is employed at East elementary, one is a parent of an East elementary student who also contracted salmonella, and one is a St. Marys resident who has a direct connection to East elementary. (Health officials in Auglaize County refuse to say how the St. Marys resident is linked in order to protect the person's identity.) The fourth adult is a Celina resident and the only case not linked to the school.
    - The remaining 11 cases are all children - nine from East elementary and one each from Celina's intermediate and middle schools. The intermediate and middle school students got the infection from East elementary students, health officials said.
    The first case to surface in Mercer County was an East elementary student who became sick during the Christmas holiday, Bowman said. Test results came back Jan. 1, before school was back in session, and confirmed the child was sick with salmonella poisoning, she said. The majority of the remaining cases developed the week of Jan. 6.
    The salmonella bacteria can remain in the human body up to three months, according to state health officials.


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
All content copyright 2003
The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822