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Princeton University Salmonella Outbreak May be Linked to Frist Gallery

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Officials in New Jersey are taking a closer look at food served at Princeton University‘s Frist Gallery, as they investigate Salmonella poisoning that has been confirmed in 16 people.  The food born illness  is suspected in dozens of  others at the Ivy League school who have reported stomach ailments.

Salmonella can occur when food is improperly stored or handled and when preparers do not wash their hands or do not sanitize implements involved in meat storage. Salmonella is a common organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain and cramping within 12 to 72 hours of infection. Laboratory testing is required to determine the presence of Salmonella; additional testing can determine the specific type and which antibiotics are needed. Generally, the illness lasts a week and most recover without treatment; however, in some, hospitalization is required because the infection may have spread from the intestines to the blood stream and other body sites.

Without treatment—antibiotics—severe cases of Salmonella can result in death; however, some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals. A small number of persons infected with Salmonella will go on to develop pains in their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination—a condition called Reiter’s syndrome—which can last for months or years and can lead to chronic arthritis; antibiotic treatment does not make a difference in whether or not the person later develops arthritis.

The Princeton Regional Health Department (PRHD) and New Jersey state officials have been investigating the Princeton Salmonella outbreak since last week,  when six cases of the food-borne illness were first confirmed. In an effort to pinpoint the source of the outbreak, they have been conducting preliminary food history surveys with both infected and healthy students. The data collected so far points to the Frist Gallery as being a possible source of infection, PRHD health officer David Henry said. Health officials have been

The survey results are not yet conclusive because a large percentage of the student population eats at the Gallery on a regular basis, Henry noted. Meanwhile, Princeton has taken several precautionary measures to minimize students’ risk of exposure, according to University spokeswoman Cass Cliatt ’96. “The University is taking steps … to prevent further infection,” Cliatt said, explaining that Dining Services has “stopped serving some of the types of food that are commonly connected to salmonella infections.” No new cases have been reported since the precautionary measures were put in place. “As of this point, the last date of onset of symptoms from the confirmed cases was April 30,” Cliatt said. “This was before the University took precautionary steps to remove some food items from service and to close some food stations at Frist.” Cliatt added that lab results on stool samples collected from 59 other suspect cases are pending.

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