Few salmonella cases reported locally

Staff and wire reports

The number of Curry County salmonella cases climbed to five Wednesday, up one from previous reports, health officials said.

According to Department of Health spokeswoman Deborah Busemeyer, there is a likelihood the patients were infected by tomatoes eaten at Curry County restaurants or purchased from area stores, though she said she did not have specific information on the individual cases.

Four of the people, between the ages of 4 and 62, fell ill from salmonella between May 12-18, she said. Two of them were hospitalized for their illnesses.

There is also one case reported in Roosevelt County.

The state Department of Health is now investigating 68 cases of Salmonella linked to tomatoes in New Mexico.

The first illness in New Mexico occurred May 11, and by May 21, the department’s scientific laboratory had confirmed three cases of salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint. Within days, more cases were reported.

U.S. health officials said Wednesday there have been no confirmed salmonella deaths linked to the outbreak, which was reported in at least 17 states. Fewer than 200 people have turned up sick.

New Mexico health officials said 75 percent of those stricken in the outbreak by May 24 reported eating fresh tomatoes. A few days later, state Environmental Department workers bought tomatoes in New Mexico grocery stores to test for salmonella.

The scientific lab began testing tomatoes from across the state June 2.

The next day, the FDA warned people in New Mexico and Texas not to eat raw red plum, Roma or round red tomatoes and to limit consumption to cherry or grape tomatoes, tomatoes with the vine still attached or those grown at home.

The Environment Department asked food businesses on June 5 to stop serving or selling the implicated types of tomatoes or such products as fresh salsas and pico de gallo made with them.

The FDA made those recommendations to the rest of the nation.

Cases have been reported in 17 New Mexico counties.

Patients range in age from 3 months to 82 years.