Maricopa County, Arizona public health departments investigating outbreak of Salmonella in sushi tuna

Maricopa County Department of Public Health in collaboration with Maricopa County Environmental Services Department and Arizona Department of Health Services are investigating an outbreak of a rare strain of Salmonella paratyphiassociated with raw minced or ground tuna in sushi, as is used in the making of spicy tuna rolls and other sushi rolls/dishes. There have been nine cases in Maricopa County with disease onset April 3-16, three of whom have been hospitalized, according to a press release.“We are early into the investigation, but from the interviews we have completed with those who have gotten sick, there are multiple restaurants involved,” Dr. Bob England, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said in the release. “That is strong evidence that the contamination is occurring before it gets to the restaurant.”

“Anyone with Salmonella symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea and abdominal cramping, especially after recently eating raw ground tuna, should seek medical attention. Healthcare providers are advised to get stool cultures from patients presenting with diarrhea and fever,” Mr. England said in the release.

The illness lasts about four to seven days. Most people recover without treatment but illness can sometimes be severe leading to hospitalization or rarely, death. Although Salmonella is not common in raw fish, consumption of raw or undercooked meats and seafood can cause foodborne illnesses including Salmonella. The elderly, very young and those who have weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness associated with Salmonella.

The most common sources of Salmonella infection are undercooked poultry, eggs, and meat. Pet birds and reptiles as well as other pets can transmit Salmonella.  To prevent illness, thorough hand washing with soap and water prior to food preparation or consumption and after using the toilet is recommended.  Salmonella can be killed by cooking foods to an internal temperature of 165°F.  Therefore, consumers of raw or undercooked fish and meat products may be at an increased risk of illness, according to the release.

Several other states are also investigating cases of this rare strain of Salmonella associated with exposure to raw ground tuna in sushi. MCDPH, MCESD and ADHS are working with the other affected states and the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration to further define the source of the Salmonella.

Maricopa County Department of Public Health works to protect and promote the health and well-being of Maricopa County residents and visitors through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services as well as by utilizing policy, systems and environmental approaches. To learn more about public health, visit www.WeArePublicHealth.org, go to www.facebook.com/MCDPH or on Twitter at @MaricopaHealth.

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