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Salmonella infections up; proper safeguards urged

An increase of salmonellosis cases in Lincoln County has causedsome residents to take more precautions around raw foods.

Cases of salmonellosis, also called salmonella infection,increased from two reported cases in 1999 to nine cases reportedfrom January to September this year, but health officials are notalarmed.

“It’s not an epidemic or an outbreak, yet, but we have seen anincrease,” said Cathy Bridge, director of quality management andinfection control at King’s Daughters Medical Center.

The reported cases have not had any connections, such as comingfrom the same area, school or eating establishments, leading healthofficials to believe the cases are unrelated.

“We have not found any trends, but we’re still looking,” saidBridge.

Health officials believe the extreme heat this past summer couldhave played a part in the increase.

“Hot weather speeds up bacteria growth,” added Bridge.

Bacteria causing salmonellosis is found in raw meats, eggs,fruits and vegetables. The bacteria can grow and multiply ifcertain precautions are not taken.

Precautionary measures include cooking all meats and eggsthoroughly before consumption. Raw eggs should not be used in anyfood that will not be cooked, like homemade ice cream, homemademayonnaise, salad dressings and frosting.

Also, perishable food should be refrigerated, rather than leftat room temperature for an extended period of time.

“Food should not be left out for any more than two hours becausethen you reach a danger point,” said Bridge.

She added that food is often not stored properly in the summerwhen people participate in picnics and tailgate parties.

Another precaution is to never mix uncooked meats and vegetableswith ready to eat food. Also, be sure to keep utensils and dishesused for preparing raw meat separate from other foods unless washedthoroughly in hot, soapy water.

“A bad example is to cut up a chicken on a cutting board, notwash the cutting board and use it to cut something else,” saidBridge, mentioning a common mistake among cooks.

People can protect themselves from salmonella found in fruitsand vegetables by washing them thoroughly before consumption.Salmonella germs cannot be seen by the naked eye, so washing is animportant part of food preparation, said Bridge.

The salmonella germ is also commonly found in animals, such asbaby chickens, frogs, snakes, lizards and turtles, which aresometimes used in science classes for educational purposes.

Teachers, parents and students should be aware of the dangersand should disinfect themselves immediately.

“Children and adults need to remember to wash their hands aftercontact with those little animals,” Bridge pointed out.

She added that washing one’s hands regularly is one of the besthabits to learn because it can also kill other harmfulbacteria.

Symptoms of the salmonella infection include upset stomach,fever and stomach cramps. Salmonellosis can only be diagnosed by adoctor, so it is best to contact a physician if these symptomsoccur, said Bridge.