CDC investigating increase in illnesses in Yuma County
TIPS FOR PREVENTION
Since Guillain-Barre syndrome is not contagious, the best prevention is to avoid gastrointestinal infections altogether. Most gastrointestinal infections result from improper food handling.
The Yuma County Public Health District urges following the four food safety tips to minimize the risk of infection:
1. Clean: Wash hands, cutting boards, utensils and countertops whenever they come into contact with raw meat, poultry or seafood.
2. Separate: Keep raw meat, poultry or seafood separate from foods that do not require cooking: fruits, vegetables, etc.
3. Cook: Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature before consuming: 145 degrees Fahrenheit for whole meats (allow the meat to rest three minutes before carving or consuming), 106 degrees Fahrenheit for ground meats and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for all poultry.
4. Chill: Keep your refrigerator below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and refrigerate food that will spoil. Keep cold things cold and hot things hot.
In addition, refrain from preparing food for others if you have diarrhea or vomiting and be especially careful when preparing food for children, pregnant women, those in poor health and the elderly.
Washing your hands is the single most important thing you can do to prevent illness.
Seek medical care if you develop gastrointestinal symptoms.
A recent increase in a rare nervous system disorder that can lead to paralysis has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send agents to Yuma to investigate.
Health officials announced Wednesday that health officials in Yuma County and San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., have reported an increase in acute diarrheal illnesses caused by campylobacter infections and cases of Guillain-Barre' Syndrome (GBS) over the past three months.
As of July, there have been six confirmed cases and one pending case of GBS in Yuma County, said Becky Brooks director of the Yuma County Health District.
In a normal year, there are typically three to four cases.
“(In June) we started noticing an increase in the campylobacter infection first,” Brooks said. “And then we started hearing about a syndrome they call acute flaccid paralysis. There had been some people who had gone to (the Yuma hospital) and had been sent to Phoenix.
“Once we started hearing those names a few times, we started checking into it. That's when we contacted the state, and the state then contacted the CDC.”
The CDC confirmed the increase in GBS constituted an “unusual cluster,” which happens with a variety of diseases and for a variety of reasons to occur across the country at any given time, Brooks said.
The investigation is focused on determining if a connection exists between GBS and campylobacter and discovering the source for the increase in both maladies.
“We are working on all of those elements right now,” Brooks said. “Unfortunately, I don't have a whole lot of answers to those questions now, but we are working on it. We are doing a lot of testing in the community and trying to find those answers.”
Brooks said Yuma County, Arizona Department of Health Services, the CDC and Sonoran health officials have been working together and sharing information throughout the investigation.
The Undersecretary of Health for Sonoran State Gustavo Antonio Lopez said there were 15 cases of GBS confirmed in San Luis, Son., according to a June 18 article in Tribuna de San Luis.
Campylobacter infection affects over 2.4 million people a year, which makes it one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. Most people contract campylobacter by consuming raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these products, according to a CDC website.
Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping and fever and last about a week.
GBS is a rare disorder where the body's immune system begins to attack its nervous system. Symptoms begin with a light tingling in the fingers and toes and then progresses to muscle weakness that can evolve to paralysis, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Significant muscle weakness usually occurs within four weeks after symptoms begin, but in rare cases, complete paralysis of legs, arms and respiratory muscles can occur within a few hours.
The illness is not contagious and the exact cause is unknown, although it is estimated that 40 percent of cases in the U.S. are preceded by a campylobacter infection, according to the CDC.
Darren DaRonco can be reached a 539-6857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.