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Alaska public health investigates Salmonella cluster in Bethel

Bethel is in southwestern Alaska in the region known as the Delta.

Bethel is in southwestern Alaska in the region known as the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

A team from Alaska’s Division of Public Health traveled to the town of Bethel last week to investigate a cluster of Salmonella illnesses reported there.

Louisa Castrodale, a state epidemiologist, told KYUK Public Media the cluster of sick people confirmed with Salmonella infections amount to an unexplained situation that raises public health concerns.

Alaska Salmonella case count graphic

Source: Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

“It’s not even the end of July and we had gotten about six cases of confirmed salmonella from the Bethel-YK area. That’s a large number of cases for a short amount of time in a smaller location, so we were really concerned there was a common source for these infections,” Castrodale told KYUK reporter Charles Enoch

“(We) could have either a contaminated food product, so a food product that had salmonella in it, or (people) could have contact with a person that had salmonella.”

Three people from the state’s health department arrived Wednesday in the town of about 6,300 people in the south central area of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. They stayed through Friday. Alaska has had a total annual count of confirmed Salmonella cases of between 55 and 83 from 2011-2014, according to government statistics.

Officials are encouraging anyone on the Bethel area who has had Salmonella infections symptoms recently to see a doctor.

Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach ache, vomiting, fever, headache and dehydration, especially in infants and older people. Symptoms can start showing between six to 72 hours after exposure to salmonella bacteria, and the illness usually lasts four to seven days.

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