Greene County epidemiologists usually see a handful of salmonella cases throughout an entire year, but four cases in two days is highly unusual and is a cause for concern. Out of the four infections found since Monday, May 17, two of the individuals involved required hospitalization; officials have not yet been able to determine the source or common grounds for the infections.
Amy Schmidt, a Greene County Public Health nurse said that these infections underline the need of public awareness and education on the infection venues for salmonella. All fresh vegetables need to be washed thoroughly and raw, unpasteurized milk should never be consumed, Schmidt said. She also added that while the cases do not seem to be connected to raw milk, the sale of raw milk is illegal in Ohio and those who choose to consume it may be at risk of infection. Schmidt said that there is organic, natural milk available for sale that is pasteurized and safe to consume.
Don Brannen, an epidemiologist with the Greene County Combined Health District also highlighted the importance of safe kitchen practices for both home and commercial kitchens. A cutting board should not be shared for the cutting of vegetables and raw meat, and also consuming raw meat or meat cooked incorrectly may lead to infections. Raw beef can be contaminated with e-coli, raw chicken with salmonella and eggs cooked sunny-side up or over-easy can also carry salmonella as they are not cooked long enough to kill the bacteria.
Another important fact shared by Greene County officials is that often owners of exotic pets are not aware that they may carry salmonella. Snakes, turtles, lizards and other reptiles naturally carry salmonella in their gut and touching or playing with the reptile can cause infection. Children under two years of age and toddlers should not be around such pets and should avoid contact with them.
It is important to note that even with four infections taking place simultaneously, this is a very low rate out of the 157,000 residents of Greene County. Both Schmiddt and Brannen said that this is not a public emergency and any emergencies would be directed through the office of the Greene County Sheriff for public notice.
Samples of the salmonella have been sent to the Ohio Department of Health for DNA analysis to determine commonalities and possible source of the infection.