ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Public Health has identified seven Salmonella Saintpaul cases in Georgia that match the nationwide outbreak. Georgia is one of 23 other states impacted by the outbreak. Six of the state’s cases are in the east metro Atlanta area and one case is in northeast Georgia. There are now 228 confirmed Salmonella Saintpaul cases nationwide.
An epidemiologic investigation by the New Mexico and Texas Departments of Health and the Indian Health Service has identified consumption of raw tomatoes as the likely source of the illnesses in states affected by the outbreak. The specific type and source of tomatoes is still under investigation; however, data suggest that large tomatoes (including Roma and round red) are the source.
Several of the Georgia cases reported eating raw tomatoes prior to their illness onset; the rest are still being investigated by state epidemiologists.
Most people infected with Salmonella become ill within 12 hours to seven days after exposure, and recover completely within four to seven days. Symptoms consistent with Salmonella infection include fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Public health officials are advising individuals who have consumed raw tomatoes and are experiencing these symptoms to contact their health care provider for evaluation. While most people recover without treatment, severe infections may occur.
Infants, elderly persons and those with impaired immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness.
The Georgia Division of Public Health is working closely with local health departments as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assist in the outbreak investigation. As a precaution, DPH and CDC advise consumers to do the following:
• Avoid purchasing bruised or damaged tomatoes and throw out any that appear spoiled.
• Thoroughly wash all tomatoes under running water.
• Keep tomatoes that will be consumed raw separate from other raw items such as meats, seafood and produce.
• Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot water and soap when switching between different food products.
• Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water after handling raw foods, before eating and after using the restroom.
The Division of Public Health also wants to remind residents that Georgia-grown tomatoes are still safe to consume. Tomatoes grown in the state remain on the safe list of tomatoes compiled by the Food and Drug Administration.
According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, consumers should check with their local grocers and restaurants as to where the tomatoes for sale were grown. Produce can also be purchased directly from farmers and farmer’s markets.