Baton Rouge – The Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Public Health is investigating two cases of Salmonella illnesses. The two people are an 11-year-old male and a 48 year-old male, both from the Hammond area. The LDH investigation is to determine the source of the infection, if possible, and to determine if there is a link between the two cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Salmonella is a bacterium that typically causes the sudden onset of an intestinal infection characterized by symptoms such as fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramping. These symptoms usually occur 12 to 72 hours after infection, and the illness can last four to seven days. Sometimes individuals with Salmonella have severe symptoms that require hospitalization.

Salmonella bacteria are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods such as beef, poultry, milk or eggs that are contaminated with animal feces, but all foods, including vegetables, may become contaminated. The CDC Web site reports that many raw foods of animal origin are frequently contaminated, but that thorough cooking kills Salmonella. Contamination also can occur due to improper food through unwashed hands. Salmonella may also be found in the feces of some pets, reptiles (especially turtles) and in water supplies.

Salmonella illnesses are not uncommon. According to Dr. Raoult Ratard, state epidemiologist, there have been more than 700 cases of Salmonella reported in Louisiana each year since 1980.

“There is a clear seasonal relationship to Salmonella infections, with reports of illness peaking from summer to the fall,” he said. “The bacteria grow better at higher temperatures, resulting in greater concentrations in the food supply.”

Inadequate cooking practices, especially associated with picnics and barbecues, contribute to most Salmonella cases, Ratard said.

Although reports suggest that both sick individuals recreated in the Tangipahoa River, Ratard says the transmission of the Salmonella bacteria cannot be easily linked to swimming. Furthermore, it could prove difficult for state health officials to determine if either of these two cases came from the same source.

For the past several years, the Department of Health has advised people about swimming in natural waterways. Dr. Jimmy Guidry, state health officer, says there are potential risks to this warm weather pastime.

“There are microscopic germs in all natural waterways that can pose health risks,” Guidry said. “Most people can enjoy the water without any problems, but due to the ever present risk of an infection, people should stay dry if they have an open cut or wound, and they should never swallow the water.”

For more information on Salmonella, visit the LDH Web site at: