Uncommon as typhoid fever is in the United States, a rare outbreak is underway in California and Nevada, and it may spread to other western states where a frozen fruit product was sold.

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi.

mamey-shake-feature.jpgThe federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta announced Aug. 12 that three cases of typhoid fever were confirmed in California and four more in Nevada.  

CDC linked the illnesses to frozen mamey pulp recalled a day earlier by Goya Foods after it was found contaminated with Salmonella.  While based in Secaucus, NJ, Goya distributed the red fruit pulp, which is often used in smoothies, in western states including:  AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, NM, NV, OR, TX, UT, and WA.

Only about 400 typhoid fever cases a year are reported in the U.S., and most of those occur after people have traveled to undeveloped areas of the world.

The onset dates for the current outbreak so far have fallen between April and July. CDC said the victims’ ages ranged from 4 to 31.  Five of the seven victims are known to have drank shakes or smoothies made with frozen mamey fruit–which is grown in South and Central America before being peeled and mashed into pulp.

Four of the five are certain the pulp came from Goya Foods.

Since it takes up to eight weeks for an infected person to develop Typhoid Fever symptoms, the outbreak may claim other victims in other states where the fruit pulp was sold.

CDC says anyone who suspects they might have Typhoid Fever (sustained fever as high as 103° to 104° F (39° to 40° C),  weakness, or stomach pains, headache, loss of appetite–In some cases, a rash of flat, rose-colored spots)  should see a doctor immediately, adding:

“You will probably be given an antibiotic to treat the disease. Three commonly prescribed antibiotics are ampicillin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and ciprofloxacin. Persons given antibiotics usually begin to feel better within two to three days, and deaths rarely occur. 

“However, persons who do not get treatment may continue to have fever for weeks or months, and as many as 20 percent may die from complications of the infection.

“Even if your symptoms seem to go away, you may still be carrying S. Typhi. If so, the illness could return, or you could pass the disease to other people. In fact, if you work at a job where you handle food or care for small children, you may be barred legally from going back to work until a doctor has determined that you no longer carry any typhoid bacteria.

“If you are being treated for typhoid fever, it is important to do the following:

“Keep taking the prescribed antibiotics for as long as the doctor has asked you to take them.

“Wash your hands carefully with soap and water after using the bathroom, and do not prepare or serve food for other people. This will lower the chance that you will pass the infection on to someone else.

Have your doctor perform a series of stool cultures to ensure that no S. Typhi bacteria remain in your body.”