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Salmonella outbreak ongoing since November; little known

A Michigan restaurant has temporarily closed while authorities investigate an outbreak of Salmonella saintpaul that has sickened at least 26 people in the state as well as others in Ohio and Illinois.

The Oakland County Health Division in Pontiac, MI, did not name the Rochester, MI, restaurant in a notice posted Friday.

logo Rojo Mexican Bistro“The ongoing investigation suggests that the salmonella is being spread through personal contact,” Pamela Hackert, chief of medical services at the Health Division, said in the notice. “Residents are reminded to wash their hands thoroughly before every meal and after using the restroom.”

Hackert and other Oakland County officials are investigating 15 confirmed cases of Salmonella saintpaul. Other Michigan counties have confirmed cases, as have public health officials in Ohio and Illinois, according to the Oakland County notice.

Media in Michigan, including the Detroit Free Press newspaper reported Friday that the Rojo Mexican Bistro on Main Street in Rochester had voluntarily closed because of the outbreak. Operations at two other Rojo locations were reportedly not interrupted.

Hackert told the newspaper investigators have not directly tied the Rochester location to the Salmonella infections, but several outbreak victims have reported eating there before becoming ill.

“We have done 51 food samples and 60 environment samples and never found it,” the Detroit Free Press reported Hackert said of the investigators’ work at the Rojo location on Main Street.

Hackert told the Detroit Free Press that public health officers were investigating some restaurants that had been visited by more than one of the outbreak victims, but she declined to name the restaurants. She said owners of the closed restaurant have been cooperating with investigators.

Neither the Ohio nor Illinois state health departments had posted any public notices about Salmonella saintpaul investigations in their states. Similarly, neither the Food and Drug Administration not The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have posted any information about the multi-state outbreak or the investigation.

Anyone who has eaten at the Rojo location in Rochester recently and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors of the possible exposure.

Most people develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after infection, according to the Oakland County notice. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. Infants, elderly people and people with impaired immune systems are at a higher risk of developing severe illness.

The county health department offered the following tips to reduce the risk of contracting salmonella:

Handwashing is essential and one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection. Wash hands thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before preparing and eating food. Rub hands vigorously with soap and warm running water for at least 20 seconds.

  • Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or baby chicks, and after contact with pet feces.
  • Clean and disinfect all surface areas if someone in the household or workplace has symptoms, especially areas such as toilets, sinks, trashcans, doorknobs and faucet handles.
  • Do not prepare food if you have symptoms and refrain from food preparation for at least three days after symptoms have ended, or two weeks after onset of clinical symptoms, whichever is longer.

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