Three cases of salmonella have been reported to the Franklin County Department of Health since the end of April, but officials believe there is no cause for alarm.

Tony Buel, epidemiology specialist for the county health department, confirmed to The Missourian this week that three cases were reported in about a one-week period that started on April 30. Two of them were in St. Clair and the other was in Sullivan. All three occurred in children under age 10.

“We have three cases currently in reference to salmonella,” Buel said, adding that each case involves different serotypes, which refer to distinct variations within a species of bacteria or viruses.

“It was kind of alarming at first,” he said.

Buel said, however, that the different serotypes mean that the cases are not related nor is there any concern at this time about a possible outbreak.

He also said that two of the children have not yet fully recovered as of this week.

The salmonella bacteria causes the infection, which usually is characterized by the patient having diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most persons recover without treatment. However, in some individuals, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.

Buel would not release any personal information because of privacy laws. He did say, however, that it is common for people to end up hospitalized due to dehydration and other issues.

Rare Occurrence

Buel also said having three cases reported at the same time doesn’t happen very often.

“It’s rare for us to have three cases reported at the same time,” he told The Missourian. “It has happened before, however.”

Last year, Buel said he worked 19 confirmed salmonella cases in the county.

“So I guess you could say three in one week is an increase,” he said. “Three in a week is definitely higher than normal.”

The Centers for Disease Control states that the elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are most likely to have a severe case of salmonella. It usually is caused by contact with contaminated food, water or infected animals.

The CDC also states that every year, about 42,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States. Because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections may be 29 or more times greater. It is estimated that about 400 people die each year with acute salmonellosis.

Salmonella serotypes Enteritidis, Typhimurium, and Newport account for about half of culture-confirmed salmonella cases. Buel told The Missourian that the three local cases involve Newport, Heidelberg and Motevideo.

No Connection

Buel also said the three local cases are not connected to the recent salmonella outbreak in nine states, including Missouri, traced to Diamond Pet Foods products. He said the 14 cases related to the dog food are of another serotype — Typhimurium.

“There is no relation,” he said.

It has been reported that officials from the CDC have stated they believe it is possible that those who have gotten sick with the rarer strain of salmonella became ill through via contact with dogs who had eaten the tainted food, or the food itself.

The company has recalled nine of its brands of pet food after seven of those stricken had contact with a dog in the week prior and five of the sick people remembered the type of dog food they’d had contact with as well.

The eight states besides Missouri with reported cases are Alabama, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The food, manufactured in South Carolina, is distributed in as many as 16 states and in Canada,

Salmonella Prevention

Buel provided tips on the best ways to prevent an illness like salmonella.

“The single-most important way to prevent the spread of the disease is careful hand washing,” he said. “Wash hands thoroughly after using bathrooms, handling raw foods, before you prepare foods and after handling animals.”

He also said individuals should not consume raw eggs or unpasteurized dairy products.

Finally, he said never let raw meat and poultry or their juices come into contact with cooked meat or any other food, raw or cooked.