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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 9, 2008

Contact: Greg Wilkinson, (907) 269-7285, Cell (907) 382-7032
gregory.wilkinson@alaska.gov

State investigation links foodborne outbreak to consumption of peas


(Anchorage, AK) — New molecular laboratory findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide a firm link between an outbreak of Campylobacter diarrhea that occurred in Southcentral Alaska this summer and eating uncooked peas grown in Alaska.


“Molecular studies demonstrated that there was a match between Campylobacter bacteria obtained from sick people and those obtained from pea and Sandhill Crane samples taken from the farm in Palmer,” said Dr. Tracie Gardner, an epidemiologist with the Alaska Division of Public Health.


To date, the investigation has identified 99 people sickened by the bacteria who reported eating raw peas within 10 days of illness onset. Fifty-four had laboratory confirmation of illness. Five were hospitalized. None have died.


Investigation revealed a lack of chlorine in the water used to wash the peas at the farm. State officials are working with the farm to implement future control measures.


Common symptoms of Campylobacter infection include diarrhea that is often bloody, abdominal pain, weakness, fever, nausea and vomiting. Onset of the illness occurs two to five days after exposure and symptoms usually continue for up to one week. Prolonged illness and relapses may also occur in adults. Some cases may mimic acute appendicitis or inflammatory bowel disease. Most people infected with Campylobacter recover without any specific treatment.


People experiencing symptoms should drink extra fluids and consult with their health care provider.
State health officials recommend that all raw vegetables be cooked or carefully washed before eating.


The Alaska Section of Epidemiology requests that anyone who experienced diarrhea after eating Alaska-grown peas since August 1 to call 1-877-469-8067 to report their illness.


For a copy of the EPI Bulletin Campylobacter Outbreak due to Consumption of Raw Peas go to:
http://www.epi.alaska.gov/bulletins/docs/b2008_20.pdf
For more information about Campylobacter infection go to: http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/dfbmd/disease_listing/campylobacter_gi.html .