January 9, 2003
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Food poisoning at Young’s—
Same strain of salmonella found elsewhere in Ohio

Continuing to search for more information in the recent food poisoning outbreak at Young’s Jersey Dairy, the Clark County health department has located two separate food-poisoning incidents elsewhere in Ohio involving a strain of the salmonella genetically identical to the one found at Young’s.

Two isolated cases in Columbiana County near Pennsylvania and one in Ross County were presented last September and October and involve the salmonella typhimurium connected with Young’s, the health department’s lead sanitarian Dennis Propes said.

Health officials, however, are uncertain whether the bacteria traveled from Columbiana and Ross Counties to Young’s. Also, health officials are still unclear as to how the bacteria got to Young’s.

“Young’s by all evidence is the cause of this outbreak [in Clark and surrounding counties],” Propes said. “But we’re trying to see if there’s a link between Young’s and these other places [in Columbiana and Ross counties].”

The number of people infected with the bacteria found at Young’s is up to 50, as of Monday, Jan. 6, Propes said.

Three weeks ago the skim milk bottled at Young’s on Nov. 29, tested positive for salmonella. Since then, all the milking cows have been tested. The results have come back negative. No other milk or food products tested so far have been contaminated, according to a health department press release dated Jan. 3.

The bacteria can spread from person to person and from place to place through fecal matter contact of any kind, Propes said. A person carrying the bacteria in his or her stool may not always present symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever or vomiting. But the bacteria can still be transmitted to others even months after a person is contaminated.

According to Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson, one of the cases in Columbiana County testing positive in September was still shedding the bacteria in December, three months later. Though there is no known antibiotic treatment for salmonella poisoning, generally the body gets rid of it within three to five weeks of contamination, he said.

Each person who tested positive for salmonella is being tested every week until two consecutive tests come back negative, Patterson said.

Tests showed that three Young’s employees who originally tested positive last month no longer have the bacteria.

Health officials are still investigating an additional 18 suspected cases, and of the business’s 200 employees, a handful are still waiting to be tested. The number of employees testing positive for salmonella is up to 16 people this week from 13 last week, including people from all aspects of the business, Propes said.

Young’s has been adversely affected by the food poisoning outbreak.

“Obviously this extended media coverage has affected our business significantly,” Young’s CEO Dan Young said Monday.

But the business is not giving up hope. Over Martin Luther King weekend, January 17–20, Young’s will celebrate the 134th anniversary of its dairy farm.

“We’re acting half our age by offering ice cream cones for 67 cents, cheeseburgers for 67 cents, miniature golf and buckets of golf balls all for 67 cents,” Young said.

The red barn at Young’s was built 134 years ago by a relative of the Young family, and the dairy has been in operation since the early 1900s, he said.

“We haven’t had a birthday party before, and this will be a fun thing for us to do,” he said. “Hopefully this [contamination incident] will all be behind us soon.”

—Lauren Heaton