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North Carolina Salmonella Outbreak Under Investigation

Twenty-nine possible cases of Salmonella Paratyphi B infection have been identified in Buncombe County, North Carolina, but the source of the outbreak remains undetermined.

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According to the Buncombe County Department of Health, all the cases seem to be linked to residence or travel to Buncombe County, in western North Carolina, since February 28.

Communicable disease experts from the North Carolina Division of Public Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are assisting food specialists from the state Department of Agriculture with the investigation.

A hotline was established Friday to offer people a way to get accurate information about the outbreak. The number – 828-250-5300 – includes an automated message and a phone number for people with symptoms to talk with a Communicable Disease Nurse. 

Public health specialists are continuing to conduct interviews with people who currently have or have had the infection, reviewing laboratory reports and inspecting food sources that may be linked to the outbreak.

Salmonella Paratyphi B, found in the intestines of humans, can be spread from person to person or by eating food or water contaminated with the feces of a person ill with Salmonella Paratyphi B infection or a person who carries this infection in their body. 

The Buncombe County news release notes that any food can become contaminated at any point in the food chain, including at home or in restaurants. Contamination can occur when a person infected with Salmonella Paratyphi B handles food and does not wash their hands well after using the bathroom.

Food can also become contaminated if cutting boards or counters are used to prepare contaminated foods and are not disinfected before preparing food that doesn’t get cooked, such as salads or fresh fruits.

Symptoms of Salmonella Paratyphi B usually begin about 6 days after exposure but may not begin for as long as 30 days. Symptoms may include gradual onset of high fever and fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), and stomach pain, and usually last between 4 and 7 days. Antibiotics are used to treat this type of Salmonella.

The elderly, infants and those with a compromised immune system can become seriously ill and may need to be hospitalized.

Recommendations for anyone who has symptoms of Salmonella Paratyphi B infection include:

- See a doctor immediately

- Do not prepare food or drinks for others until a doctor tells you it is safe for you to do so

- Do not go to work or school until you no longer have diarrhea

- If you are a food worker, health care worker or child care worker, do not return to work until released by the Buncombe County Health Director

- Drink plenty of water and juice

- Call your doctor or go the emergency room if you are unable to keep down liquids or have signs of dehydration (dark urine, small amount of urine, or a rapid heart rate)

Call the Buncombe County Department of Health Disease Control Division at 828-250-5109 to report possible Salmonella Paratyphi B infection.

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