The illnesses could be part of a salmonella outbreak that’s infected at least 148 people in Pennsylvania and West Virginia who ate Sheetz food or had contact with someone who did, The Associated Press reported. Officials also are investigating whether salmonella cases in Maryland and Virginia are linked to Sheetz.
Six people — two of them in Stark — had the same strain of salmonella, the javiana strain, found in the out-of-state infections, said Ohio Department of Health spokesman Kristopher Weiss. The department is awaiting test results for the other seven. Infected people also live in Mahoning, Summit, Tuscarawas and three other Northeast Ohio counties.
Salmonella infections, which usually aren’t fatal, can result in nausea, diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps and body aches. Usually detected through stool testing, the bacteria can be spread through animal or human excrement, or raw chickens, but the javiana strain has been known to spread through produce.
Pennsylvania health officials said Monday that tomatoes taken from a Sheetz store in Pennsylvania had tested positive for salmonella, but it wasn’t the javiana strain that had sickened people, according to The Associated Press.
Sheetz Chairman Steve Sheetz said his Altoona, Pa.-based chain of about 300 stores has sanitized food areas and switched to another supplier of lettuce and tomatoes for its sandwiches and salads. The chain’s only Stark store is at 5057 Tuscarawas St. W in Perry Township. It has 14 other Ohio stores.
“I believe that it’s safe to eat at all 300 stores,” Sheetz said, adding that he knows of no one who has eaten Sheetz food in the last week and gotten sick.
A 32-year-old man with a Canton address became ill after eating a chicken salad wrap from the Sheetz store at 5100 Ridge Rd. in Wadsworth on July 2, said Stark County Health Commissioner Bill Franks. The man went to the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center after becoming sick July 4.
A 50-year-old man with a Canton address ate an Italian sub from the Wadsworth Sheetz store July 3 and started experiencing symptoms the next day, Franks said.
Meanwhile, a 24-year-old woman, also from the Canton area, was found infected with the bacteria after she ate Sheetz food and became sick July 12, he added. Franks did not have more information on her.
Canton Health Commissioner Robert Pattison said the fourth person, a 34-year-old Canton man, ate from a Sheetz store in New Philadelphia on July 2 and developed symptoms the next day.
Franks and Pattison said all four have apparently recovered.
The state gets more than 1,300 reports of salmonella in 2003. Franks said that the Stark County Health Department gets about 50 cases a year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.