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Summit County public health official takes issue with coverage

Opinion

I am writing to express my disappointment in your Aug. 10 story, “Privately provided stool samples flush out Salmonella outbreak.” The story does not accurately characterize or describe the general policies of the Summit County Public Health Department or the specific actions that were carried out related to this particular outbreak.

oscars_406x250Summit County Public Health, including its Environmental Health staff, responded promptly, professionally and diligently on this case, working in close collaboration with the state health department from the beginning. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) notified us of positive Salmonella cases possibly originating from the restaurant in question on the evening of July 14; we investigated the restaurant the following morning. Based upon our findings, the restaurant was ultimately closed the same day. As part of our investigation, we also began collecting stool samples on the morning of July 15. During this time, we were in constant contact with CDPHE, and we personally delivered the samples to the state laboratory on the morning of July 16.

Summit County Public Health has submitted to the state lab each of the 73 stool samples we have collected in connection with this case. In fact, three-quarters of the confirmed Salmonella infections in this case were confirmed by this department. And we are continuing to collect and submit samples for testing in our ongoing work to determine when it is safe to permit the restaurant employees to return to work.

As a general practice, when Summit County Public Health is notified of a possible foodborne illness, we make every reasonable effort to obtain stool samples for purposes of identifying sources of illness, as well as controlling the occurrence of further cases. But in some cases of suspected foodborne illness, it is difficult to obtain stool samples from reportedly ill restaurant patrons, particularly in a tourism-based community like ours when people have already returned home to a different county or state. Some complainants may be unwilling to submit a stool sample at all. Of the samples we do collect, we always process them for identification, as our record clearly shows.

While we appreciate the work that Food Safety News generally does in covering foodborne illnesses, we are disappointed with this story.

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