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Few details discovered in Burger King outbreak investigation

The two Burger King locations in Bemidji, MN, remain closed Monday because of a three-month Salmonella outbreak public health officials linked to the restaurants.

Most of the 26 confirmed victims became ill in September, and health officials thought the outbreak was over. However two more people, apparently infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella, became ill this past week, according to Minnesota Department of Health officials.

Anyone who ate or drank anything at either of the Burger King locations in Bemidji and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella. Specific tests are required to diagnose Salmonella infection.

Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fever, chills and abdominal cramping. People are usually sick for several days and can spread the infection to others even after symptoms resolve. In young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with suppressed immune systems the infection can become serious, causing long-term problems or death.

Neither of the Burger King restaurants will be allowed to reopen until deep-cleaning and disinfection procedures have been completed. Also, all employees will be required to test negative for Salmonella infection at least twice — and not sooner than 24 hours apart, according to public health officials.

Outbreak investigators have not yet determined if the Salmonella was spread by an infected employee, contaminated food delivered to the restaurant, or food that became contaminated after being delivered.

“We don’t know which came first. There was no clear source identified,” health department spokesman Doug Schultz told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune newspaper. “If (employees are) working while they’re ill — as hard as you try to wash your hands — it can spread.”

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