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Campylobacter in New York Traced to Raw Clams

In an official statement from the Onondaga County Health Department early this week, Health Commissioner Cynthia Morrow said she expected the number of ill people associated with a Campylobacter outbreak associated with Hinerwadel’s Grove clambake restaurant in Syracuse, NY to grow.  On Oct. 5, only 7 cases of campylobacteriosis had been associated with the outbreak; now there are 60.  

According to WSYR TV, the Campylobacter outbreak has been traced to raw clams served at an event sponsored by the CNY Builders Exchange on Sept. 15.  Approximately 3,800 people were in attendance at Hinerwadel’s Grove for the clambake.

In September of 2008 at least 236 people became ill with Campylobacter infections after eating contaminated clams from the Hinerwadel’s Grove restaurant in Clay, New York.  Clams were confirmed as the source of the 2008 outbreak as well.

Campylobacter Infection

The incubation period, or time between exposure to Campylobacter jejuni and onset of the first symptom of Campylobacteriosis – the illness caused by ingestion of Campylobacter – is typically two to five days, but onset may occur in as few as two days or as long as 10 days after ingestion of the bacterium. The illness usually lasts no more than one week, but severe cases may persist for up to three weeks, and about 25 percent of individuals experience a relapse of symptoms.

Diarrhea is the most consistent and prominent manifestation of Campylobacter infection and is often bloody. Typical symptoms also include fever, nausea, and vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, and muscle pain.  A majority of cases are mild, do not require hospitalization, and are self-limited.  However, Campylobacter jejuni infection can be severe and life-threatening.  It may cause appendicitis or infect other organs as well as the blood stream. It is estimated that about one in 1,000 cases of Campylobacter infection results in death. Death is more common when other diseases (for example, cancer, liver disease, and immune deficiency diseases) are present.

Long-term consequences and complications can sometimes result from a Campylobacter infection. Some people may develop a rare disease that affects the body’s nervous system following infection.  This disease is called Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome (GBS). It begins several weeks after the diarrheal illness, may last for weeks to months, and often requires intensive care. Full recovery is common but some affected individuals may be left with mild to severe neurological damage. Two therapies, intravenous immunoglobulin infusions and plasma exchange, may improve the rate of recovery in patients with GBS.

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