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Health department receives 25 more Salmonella reports

Kristin Netterstrom, The Morning News (AR)

February 25, 2006

BENTONVILLE -- Twenty-five more people contacted health officials Friday to say they were sickened in a mid-February Salmonella outbreak linked to a Bentonville sushi restaurant.

Lab results thus far haven't shown Salmonella in the samples from Sushi King, but many people who have reported becoming sick ate at the restaurant, said Ann Wright, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services. As of Friday, 114 people had reported becoming ill with symptoms of salmonellosis, Wright said. The department has confirmed 27 of the 114 cases through lab tests, Wright said. The department issued a news release Thursday reporting an outbreak of 89 cases.

"We don't know yet if it was the raw fish," Wright said. "We may never know the


The health department tested samples days after some people reported becoming ill. Ideally, the department would test food from the day people became sick, Wright said. It was unable to do so in Sushi King's case because of delayed reporting, she said.

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection typically take 12 to 36 hours to develop, Wright said.

Sushi King owner John Wei said Friday his restaurant remains voluntarily closed. He wants an all-clear from the health department before reopening. The restaurant has about 200 customers a day he said.

He does not know why people became sick and hopes the health department will find a cause.

The Health Department received the first report of someone becoming ill Feb. 13, and a Benton County inspector visited the restaurant and took samples. The last date someone reported an onset of symptoms was Feb. 14, a news release said. The Salmonella germ is a group of bacteria that can cause diarrhea in people and is passed from feces to other people or animals through contaminated food.

Many raw foods of animal origin are frequently contaminated, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella. Food can also become contaminated by food handlers who don't wash their hands after using the bathroom.

Sushi doesn't pose a greater risk than other raw foods for Salmonella, Wright said. Raw eggs, poultry and other meat pose the same threat.

Arkansas food codes do not require restaurants to say on their menus eating raw food poses a health risk, Wright said.

Cross-contamination also happens. A drop of liquid from a raw chicken on a countertop can contaminate bread placed there later, she said.

"You can get Salmonella in your house," she said.

People usually recover from their illness after four to seven days, but some need medical attention for dehydration.

Wright did not know the conditions of the 114 people but said no one has died. No one has reported secondary infections in which a sickened person passed the bacteria onto another person, Wright said.

A lawyer contacted by people who said they were poisoned after eating at Sushi King said one person who was sickened had to have his appendix removed. Sushi King previously served food in a Wal-Mart cafeteria but stopped doing so last year, Wei said. The people who have gotten sick reported eating at the restaurant, Wright said.

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