Salmonella cases monitored
With word of a potential outbreak of salmonella in several states, including Indiana, local health officials say they are on the lookout for any possible cases.
Officials with the Putnam County Health Department say they are not aware of any cases in the county right now, however, they are continuing to monitor the situation.
So far there has been only one reported case of the food-borne illness in Indiana, however, news reports on Monday indicated as many as 172 people nationwide may have become ill in recent days.
Other states with positive salmonella cases include Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and Wisconsin.
Putnam County Public Health Coordinator Steve Walters told the BannerGraphic that he recently received information concerning the potential outbreak from the Centers for Disease Control.
When most people think of salmonella, they think of it coming from uncooked chicken eggs, but Walters said the CDC is looking into the possibility that the illness spread from contaminated tomatoes.
According to the CDC website, salmonella is a bacterium that is widespread in the intestines of birds, reptiles and mammals. It can spread to humans through a variety of different foods of animal origin.
The illness it causes -- salmonellosis -- typically includes fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. In people with poor underlying health or weakened immune systems, it can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections.
Walters said the health department will keep in contact with local emergency rooms and doctors and report any potential cases to state health officials.
"We're continuing with surveillance right now," Walters said.
This latest outbreak of food-borne illness is reminiscent of the recent E-coli scare that caused grocery stores around the nation to pull supplies of spinach and other greens from store shelves.
Locally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the agency responsible for ordering food suppliers to remove certain items from their shelves, not the health department.
Putnam County Health Officer Dr. Robert Heavin said he too will monitor the situation and issue alerts as necessary.
New reports Wednesday indicated the outbreak may be coming to an end. Officials still do not know exactly how it started.
Meanwhile, news from Washington, D.C. on Tuesday indicated that scientists in Asia have discovered a new strain of bird flu that appears to be resistant to current vaccines.
This particular strain has infected humans and animals in Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand, but scientists said they did not think it could spread easily from human to human.
The more widely know strain, H5N1, is responsible for killing scores of poultry flocks, mainly in Asia, and has killed approximately 150 people worldwide. It is the one that scientists fear will develop into a pandemic flu outbreak that may kill millions of people around the world.