An ongoing coast-to-coast outbreak of Salmonella paratyphi linked to tuna is apparently being investigated by federal officials, but as of Thursday night, a county public health officer appears to be the only person taking publicly about it.
Madison Riethman, an applied epidemiology fellow at Clark County Public Health in Washington state, discussed the outbreak Wednesday during a county health board meeting. She said at least 30 people across seven states have been confirmed with infections.
Riethman told the Clark County health board that federal agencies have been involved in the outbreak investigation since Sept. 27.
“The fact that little, old Clark County was able to be one of the first people to pick up on this ongoing outbreak really highlights the strengths of this system we’ve developed,” Riethman said during a county health board meeting Wednesday, according to The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, WA.
Riethman’s presentation included a series of slides detailing how the county’s public health department identified the outbreak. It all began on Aug. 29 when local laboratories reported five cases of Salmonella infection. Five reports inone day sent public health officials into scramble mode.
By Sept. 8, the Washington public health lab reported DNA testing showed all five of the Clark County victims were infected with the same strain of Salmonella. That same day, according to Riethman’s presentation, the Oregon Health Authority identified 12 additional Salmonella cases with “matching” DNA.
Of those 17 infected people, 14 had been interviewed by Sept. 8 and 11 of them reported eating sushi before becoming sick.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture began investigating “Seafood Company X” on Sept. 11, according to Riethman’s report. By that date, the case count had risen to 22.
Tuna tests positive for Salmonella
On Sept. 15, four states were reporting a total of 25 victims, with two cases in Hawaii and one in New Jersey. Also on Sept. 15, the Oregon agriculture department reported its investigation of “Seafood Company X” had returned a positive result for Salmonella from a sample of the company’s tuna.
At that point, the Oregon agriculture department recommended that restaurants “hold” tuna from the company.
By Sept. 27, the victim count was at 30, with Salmonella infections identified in people in three additional states, California, Florida and Texas. However, lab tests showed the tuna that has tested positive for Salmonella did not match the strain isolated from outbreak victims.
Relish Foods recalls tuna; outbreak not mentioned
A company in Culver City, CA, initiated a recall of frozen, Newport brand tuna loins on Oct. 13, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did not post a copy of the recall until Oct. 19.
The recall by Relish Foods Inc. did not mention the outbreak. It reported only that an FDA test on a sample of its tuna had returned a positive result for Salmonella.
Tuesday this week Relish Foods posted an expanded recall, adding tuna steaks and different sizes of tuna loins not included in the original recall. The company did not mention the outbreak in this week’s expanded recall notice.
As of Oct. 26, Oregon and Washington agriculture and health department websites didn’t have information about the outbreak or investigation — neither did the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both federal agencies have been involved in the outbreak investigation since Sept. 27, according to the Clark County epidemiologist.
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