Lab First to Confirm Salmonella in Nationwide Outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo.

Testing conducted by the Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa confirmed on Jan. 25, 2010, that this strain of salmonella is linked to the outbreak that has sickened 187 people in 39 states (one case in Iowa) since July 1, 2009. No deaths have been reported. Thirty-five people have been hospitalized.

On Jan. 23, Daniele International, of Pascoag, R.I., announced a recall of more than 1.2 million pounds of its ready-to-eat sausage products because of the possible salmonella contamination.

The Iowa Department of Public Health and public health officials in Plymouth County, Iowa, investigated the one case of Salmonella Montevideo in the state. They discovered leftover suspected sausage product frozen in the individual's home and immediately sent the meat to the Hygienic Laboratory for testing. That patient has since recovered.

Using DNA fingerprinting, the laboratory confirmed that the meat product contained the same Salmonella Montevideo strain as the national outbreak, which also matched the salmonella isolate from the patient. The Hygienic Laboratory is the first lab in the nation to confirm this connection.

"The work of our laboratory scientists continues to distinguish the state as a leader in disease detection," said Michael Pentella, PhD, associate director of the Hygienic Laboratory. "Thanks to the work of the physician who cared for the patient and ordered the test, the laboratory was able to identify the isolate as part of this national outbreak."

People with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days. Infants, elderly persons and those with weakened immunes systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. When a patient seeks medical attention, it is important for physicians to order laboratory tests to detect the pathogens.

To prevent Salmonella infection, follow these tips:

--Wash hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before or after handling raw meat and poultry.

--Wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water.

--Clean up spills right way.

--Keep raw meat, fish and poultry away from other food that will not be cooked.

--Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and eggs.

The University Hygienic Laboratory is the state of Iowa's environmental and public health laboratory, with facilities located at the University of Iowa's Oakdale Campus in Iowa City and at the Iowa Lab Facilities in Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb. 

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