Louisiana Salmonella outbreak confirmed; jambalaya eyed

Louisiana officials have confirmed a Salmonella outbreak in Caldwell Parish, reporting one possible death and dozens of illnesses. The source has been tentatively identified as jambalaya served at a local fundraising event on Monday.

“The fundraiser was supported by many local businesses throughout the community that purchased plates of jambalaya, which is the suspected cause,” according to a notice from the state.

“The Louisiana Department of Health urges anyone who purchased food from the fundraiser to throw away any food that has not yet been consumed. This includes side items that may have come in contact with the jambalaya.”

An unusually high percentage of the Salmonella victims have required hospitalization. As of Thursday, 31 of the 49 confirmed victims had been admitted to hospitals. Ages of the confirmed victims range from 15 to 70 years.

Local and state health officials believe that at least 300 people were served the suspect jambalaya. They expect there will be more reports of illness in the coming days. Anyone who ate any food from the fundraiser and become ill should immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria.

“Symptoms usually begin within six to 72 hours after exposure, although they can begin up to a week after exposure,” according to the state health department notice.

“Symptoms of Salmonella poisoning include diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. Most people recover from Salmonella without treatment, but symptoms may be so severe that it is necessary to go to the hospital. Older adults, infants, and those who have impaired immune systems are at highest risk.”

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The state did not identify the specific fundraiser event in its notice, but Wednesday the Caldwell Parish sheriff told local media the event was a softball benefit. School officials in the northeast Louisiana community weighed in on Thursday. Superintendent John Gullatt reported a 2 percent drop in attendance. However, after consulting with state officials, the superintendent announced schools would not be closed because of the outbreak.

“We have been in contact with the Louisiana Office of Public Health and are closely monitoring the situation,” according to a statement from the school district.

“Dr. Parham Jaberi, Assistant Secretary, Louisiana Department of Health, has provided me with the following statement: ‘The risk of disease transmission from person-to-person through usual contact in the school setting or at the work place is extremely low. Thus, the Office of Public Health does not recommend closure of schools in response to this outbreak.’

“Furthermore, the Caldwell Parish School System can confirm that none of the food was prepared in any of the school cafeteria facilities.”

Epidemiologists with the Louisiana Department of Health are contacting people known to have purchased food from the fundraiser. They are asking anyone who might have eaten the jambalaya to call 800-256-2748.

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