You may think twice about putting cucumbers on that salad today: The CDC is collaborating with public health officials in many states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul infections linked to imported cucumbers from Mexico.
The tainted cucumbers were supplied by Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse of Culiacán, Mexico and distributed by Tricar Sales, Inc. of Rio Rico, Arizona. At this writing, the CDC has reported that a total of 73 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul have been reported from 18 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state currently is as follows: Arizona (9), California (28), Colorado (1), Idaho (2), Illinois (3), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (8), Nevada (1), New Mexic0 (2), North Carolina (1), Ohio (1), Oregon (2), South Dakota (2), Texas (6), Virginia (2), and Wisconsin (2).
The window on those who have been confirmed with this strain of Salmonella is wide. Among persons for whom information was available, illness onset dates range from January 12, 2013 to April 6, 2013. To identify these cases, public health investigators are using the PulseNet system. In PulseNet, the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC, DNA "fingerprints" of Salmonella bacteria are obtained through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE, to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak.
In addition to the cases already identified, the CDC has indicated that illnesses connected to these tainted cucumbers that occurred after March 23, 2013 might not yet be reported, as it takes an average of two to three weeks for a person to become ill and then for the illness to be reported.
Outbreak Research and Interview Results
Preliminary epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by officials in local, state, and federal public health, agriculture, and regulatory agencies indicate that exposure to imported cucumbers supplied by Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse of Culiacán, Mexico and distributed by Tricar Sales, Inc. of Rio Rico, Arizona is the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul infections.
In interviews, ill persons answered questions about foods eaten and other exposures during the week before becoming ill. Thirty (67%) of 45 ill persons interviewed reported that they had eaten various types of cucumbers purchased or consumed at multiple locations or restaurants; an additional 5 (11%) of 45 ill persons reported that they may have eaten cucumbers. No other foods that were reported eaten by interviewees were associated with illness.
Reviewing shipping records, with assistance from its partner state agencies, FDA traced cucumbers eaten by six ill people to the distributer, Tricar Sales, Inc., and further, to the suppliers, Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse. On April 24, 2013, the suppliers were placed on Import Alert. Cucumbers from these two firms will be denied admission into the United States unless the suppliers show that they are not contaminated with Salmonella.
The number of illnesses reported has declined substantially since a peak in early March. Currently, there is no evidence that contaminated cucumbers are still on the market. However, due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported, additional ill persons may be identified. CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill persons and to interview ill persons about foods eaten with before becoming ill.
To learn more about Salmonella, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online.
Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention