WASHINGTON - Investigators probing the Salmonella saintpaul outbreak that has sickened at least 810 Americans, including 25 in Maryland, are trying to make sure that tomatoes are the cause, an official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.
For weeks, the government has focused on tomatoes, and investigators have been visiting farms, warehouses and other stops on the tomato supply chain in search of the source.
Dr. Patricia Griffin, chief of the CDC's Enteric Diseases Epidemiology branch, said tomatoes remain the likeliest cause, but CDC scientists are also checking salsa, guacamole and produce other than tomatoes.
The government is double-checking because illnesses, which began on April 10, have kept emerging even though it has been weeks since stores and restaurants removed suspect tomatoes. The latest confirmed case of illness was on June 15.
"The source of contamination has been ongoing at least through early June, and we don't have any evidence that, whatever the source is, it has been removed from the market," Griffin said.
The number of sickened Marylanders has increased from the 18 reported last week. State health officials have given the FDA information about some possible clusters of a few Marylanders who got sick after eating tomatoes from the same retailer or restaurant, said Alan Brench, chief of food processing at the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.