Since Monday, health care providers in a small Missouri county south of St. Louis have diagnosed at least 23 cases of salmonella, and officials say they haven’t yet tracked down the source of the outbreak.
The illnesses were reported in Perry County, a southeastern Missouri county home to nearly 19,000 people.
Perry County Memorial Hospital in Perryville first issued a statement Thursday on the outbreak.
Among the 23 people who have gotten sick, “three have required acute hospital admission, two short term hospital observation and treatment, and one case has been transferred to a (Cape Girardeau) hospital,” the hospital noted. Others have been recovering at home with medication and hydration.
The patients’ ages range from 2 to 68, the hospital reported.
Citing the Perry County Health Department, The Republic Monitor reported Friday that the number of illnesses went up to 32 — more than what the health department is used to seeing in a year.
Local and state health officials are now looking into what might have caused the outbreak, the hospital stated. It said a state laboratory is expected to receive culture samples of the patients, and the local health department “will be handling the evidence that will hopefully determine the source and/or causation of the illnesses.”
Salmonella is considered to be highly contagious, the hospital said, and is typically passed on by eating contaminated food.
The hospital said anyone who is experiencing symptoms of salmonella should seek medical care.
Symptoms include high fever, diarrhea, bloody stools, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and severe dehydration that can last for four to seven days. Health officials say patients could experience some or all of the symptoms.
Health officials in the Midwest have warned the public about other salmonella outbreaks that have affected people in Missouri and surrounding states.
In July, Hy-Vee announced it had removed its Spring Pasta Salads in all 244 stores in eight states, including Missouri, after a “possible salmonella contamination.” By Aug. 1, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said 79 cases had been reported.
Earlier this summer, the CDC investigated another salmonella outbreak when pre-cut melon from Walmart made at least 60 people sick, including 10 in Missouri, according to a previous report in The Kansas City Star.