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Elderly Tucson woman dies from cucumber salmonella

The death of an elderly Tucson-area woman has been linked to an ongoing multi-state salmonella outbreak traced to contaminated cucumbers, a Pima County Health Department official said Friday.

The woman, who died while being treated for her illness at a local hospital, had serious underlying health conditions, county spokesman Aaron Pacheco said.

The woman's name has not been released.

"This circumstance is a saddening reminder that illnesses that often don't cause a high level of harm to most people can have a devastating effect on those in our community that are most medically vulnerable," said Dr. Francisco Garcia, the director of the Pima County Health Department.

So far 481 people in 31 states have been infected with the Salmonella Poona outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two other deaths have been reported, one in California and one in Texas.

A total of 85 cases have been reported in Arizona, including 16 in Pima County, Pacheco said in a news release.

Most of the cases here have "been in older adults and children," he said, "with four of the total cases being in adults over 55 and nine in children younger than 12." Six of the area cases have led to hospitalization.

The cucumbers, grown in Mexico, were sold under the Limited Edition brand name and were voluntarily recalled by the producer this month.

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Symptoms of salmonella infection include headache, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms usually appear 12 to 72 hours after exposure.

The illness typically lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. People concerned about their symptoms should see their health care provider.

The health department offered these reminders for the public and food business owners:

  • If consumers or businesses are not sure if their cucumbers were recalled, they should ask the place of purchase or the supplier. When in doubt, do not eat, sell, or serve them and throw them out.
  • Grocery operators, restaurant management and the public can receive information concerning recalls when they are issued by signing up for recall alerts by visiting www.fda.gov/Food.
  • People who prepare food in nursing homes, assisted living, health and childcare settings, or other venues where medically vulnerable individuals should take extra precautions to ensure that they are not using recalled cucumbers.
  • All restaurants handlers should ensure that appropriate food safety rules and regulations are followed during every step of food preparation and serving.
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California Department of Health