The Mississippi State Department of Health says 59 customers and employees of Don Julio Mexican Restaurant in Corinth have tested positive for Salmonella. The first cases of Don Julio’s Salmonella outbreak were reported in late November. Dr. Jessie R. Taylor, a district health officer, says the source of the Salmonella does not appear to be a food producer or supplier, but instead was the result of a problem at the restaurant.
Victims are speaking out too. Aaron Canaday says it hit suddenly and violently. The 13-year old got very sick and didn’t know why. “It went from high fever, to can’t get away from the bathroom, stomach cramps and just bad.” Aaron’s family says their two salmonella victims are taking it easy and getting plenty of rest. “It hasn’t been fun. That’s for sure. It’s scary. Makes you want to eat at home.” said his Dad, Tony.
What is really striking about the Don Julio’s Salmonella outbreak is the number of people that may have actually been sickened. It is certainly not just 59. A leading study on the subject suggests that the number of actual victims in a given Salmonella outbreak, as opposed to merely those with positive stool samples, is as much as 38 times the number of stool sample confirmed individuals.
Underreporting of foodborne disease is common. See Mead Article at 607. “Surveillance of foodborne illness is complicated by several factors. The first is underreporting. Although foodborne illnesses can be severe or even fatal, milder cases are often not detected through routine surveillance.” It is frequently the case that only the more severe illnesses come to the attention of health department officials. The less severe illnesses in any given outbreak often require less medical treatment, and the possibility that the causative agent—e.g. Salmonella bacteria—will be identified decreases as well.
Many cases of foodborne illness are not reported because the ill person does not seek medical care, the health-care provider does not obtain a specimen for diagnosis, the laboratory does not perform the necessary diagnostic test, or the illness or laboratory findings are not communicated to public health officials.
59 X 38 = a very big number.