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Salmonella outbreak from cucumbers hits Maryland

Salmonella outbreak hits Maryland

A Maryland resident was one of hundreds across the country sickened by salmonella after eating cucumbers imported from Mexico.

State and federal officials released few details about the person because they still are investigating the case. But it is likely the cucumber was purchased or eaten in another state because none of the produce was believed to have been sold in Maryland stores, said Dr. Lucy Wilson, an infectious-disease physician with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The national outbreak, first announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, has killed four people and sickened 732 in 35 states, prompting several recalls of the cucumbers identified as the source of the salmonella. The deaths occurred in Arizona, California, Texas and Oklahoma.

The Maryland resident became sick during the time of the recall, but the illness was only recently confirmed, Wilson said.

"There is often a delay from when someone is exposed to when they get symptoms and they get tested," Wilson said. "They do molecular testing, so there is often a delay."

The salmonella has been found in cucumbers grown in Mexico and distributed by San Diego company Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, which announced a voluntary recall Sept. 4. The cucumbers were sold under the label "Limited Edition" and grown and packed by Rancho Don Juanito in Mexico.

Another company, Custom Produce Sales, received cucumbers from Andrew & Williamson and also announced a voluntary recall. That produce was sold under the brand Fat Boy. The company also recalled cucumbers sold in a reusable plastic container but not labeled with any particular brand.

The recalled produce is known as a "slicer" or American cucumber, dark green and typically 7 to 10 inches long.

Health officials were able to make direct connections to cucumbers sold in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. It is possible some produce might have reached other states as well.

"Anything is possible because produce is nationally distributed, so there could be a secondary distributor that we don't know about," Wilson said.

Health officials said cases could continue to crop up even though the recall was more than a month ago. It may take time for some people to develop symptoms, which can include diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. The cucumbers also have a 14-day shelf life, so people might not have eaten the produce right away. Others might have eaten the cucumber without knowing about the recall.

"It is not uncommon to find out about a case weeks after a person was exposed," Wilson said. "But we don't expect any new-onset cases."

Maryland grocers have received questions from consumers about the cucumbers, even though none are believed to have been distributed locally.

"We had some customers asking, but we did not source any cucumbers from Mexico," said Wegmans spokeswoman Jeanne Colleluori.

amcdaniels@baltsun.com

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