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Salmonella outbreak reported in Washington and Oregon

Moscow-Pullman Daily News - 12/5/2017

Dec. 05--Contaminated pre-cut fruit has been linked to a salmonella outbreak in Washington and Oregon, state health officials said in a press release Friday.

According to the release, 18 people from King, Mason, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston and Yakima counties, and two people from Oregon were diagnosed with the disease. Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include fever and bloody diarrhea.

Washington Department of Health officials say the investigation has led them to suspect the culprit is pre-cut cantaloup and watermelon purchased between Oct. 25 and Friday, mostly from Kroger Stores including Fred Meyer and QFC. The agency was able to trace the fruit to a company in Oregon that processes and distributes the pre-cut fruit.

"We don't know if the problem is in that facility or if it goes further back to where they got their produce from, which apparently is some umbrella group in California," said Liz Coleman, communications lead for the Environmental Public Health Division of the Washington Department of Health.

Coleman said her agency is unsure if the company that packages and distributes fruit does so only for Kroger stores.

Coleman said since her department doesn't have the authority to investigate out of state, the Food and Drug Administration was tapped to take the lead on the investigation.

It's still early in the investigation, health officials say, but one concern is that people have frozen the fruit and plan to use it later.

"That was the reason behind going public," said Dr. Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist for the Washington Department of Health. "It is possible that people have this still in their freezer. Probably not so much in the refrigerator, because the shelf life is pretty low."

Lindquist said there have been no new reported cases, but it's entirely possible that the outbreak makes its way to eastern Washington or Idaho.

"For every person that goes to their doctor and actually gets a culture done, we know there's at least a couple others associated with them," Lindquist said. "So even though we only have these cases, we're assured that there's probably others."

Lindquist said he doesn't expect to discover many more cases, but he stressed the investigation is ongoing.

"Hopefully, there isn't any ongoing contamination," Lindquist said. "And if there is, we'll find it."

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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(c)2017 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)

Visit the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho) at www.dnews.com

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