Very little information is being released about a Salmonella outbreak among patients at four healthcare facilities in Pennsylvania.

In a short advisory Dec. 5 the Pennsylvania Department of Health urged healthcare providers to watch for patients with symptoms of Salmonella infections. The advisory did not include information on what specific healthcare facilities are confirmed as involved.

No specific source, foodborne or otherwise, is mentioned in the state’s advisory.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Health is investigating four Salmonella outbreaks at healthcare facilities in southeastern Pennsylvania. To date, we have identified 29 case-patients who spent time during their incubation periods in one of four healthcare facilities experiencing outbreaks, which include two hospitals and two long-term care facilities (LTCFs),” according to the health department’s advisory.

Illness onset dates, known as of Dec. 5, are in a narrow time frame from Nov. 19-30. Additional patients are likely to be added to the tally because of the lag time between symptom onset and reporting of confirmed laboratory results.

“Case identification is ongoing, which is essential to identify exposure risks, ensure appropriate clinical management, and implement prevention strategies,” the health department advisory states.

The state recommendations for healthcare providers includes three key steps:

• Consider Salmonella for patients experiencing diarrheal symptoms, especially if febrile.

• Obtain a stool sample and test for bacterial pathogens.

• Report any gastrointestinal outbreaks to local public health authorities or to DOH at 877- PA-HEALTH (877-724-3258).

CDC information on Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about any possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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