Earlier today, the Frederick County Health Department in Maryland issued a press release announcing that they are teaming up with working with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate a recent outbreak of Salmonella infantis in the county.

The outbreak appears to be linked to sausage that was served at a fundraising breakfast at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Thurmont on March 5, 2011. As indicated in the health department’s press release, the sausages for the March 5th fundraiser were purchased at the “Frederick County 4-H Country Butchering” event held on January 27, 2011 at the Mount Pleasant Ruritan Club.

Although the health officials were unable to obtain samples of the sausage served at the fundraising breakfast, samples of the sausage sold to consumers at the 4-H butchering event were tested at the State health department laboratory and found to contain Salmonella.

A few days after the fundraiser, on March 11, Frederick Memorial Hospital staff received lab reports indicating positive stool culture results for Salmonella in several patients. So far, the Frederick County Health Department reports that 8 people have had stool cultures confirming a Salmonellosis infection. Of those 8, all were found to have eaten at the Thurmont fundraising breakfast.

According to Barbara Brookmyer, a health officer at the Frederick County Health Department, however, “as is typical with foodborne illnesses, there are many more people who develop the infection than who never seek medical attention.” It is her suspicion that many more people consumed the contaminated sausage and experienced symptoms, but never sought medical attention or reported it.

The health department has yet to ascertain where along the chain the contamination occurred, since Salmonella bacteria can contaminate food products in a variety of ways. However, the agency is continuing its investigation.

The health department is advising consumers not to eat any sausage obtained from this butchering event. While the risk of Salmonellosis can be reduced with proper cooking, to be cautious, the Health Department recommends consumers discard the sausage.

Additional information on proper food handling, specifically pork and pork products, can be obtained by contacting the Health Department at 301-600-2542 or accessing their website. Questions of a clinical nature regarding Salmonella infections and symptoms can be directed to (301) 600-3363. Consumers can also find information about the symptoms of salmonella poisoning on the informational website, http://www.about-salmonella.com/, maintained by Marler Clark.