Typhoid outbreak blamed on fruit

By Mike Stobbe
Associated Press / August 13, 2010

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ATLANTA — A rare US outbreak of typhoid fever has been linked to a frozen fruit product used to make smoothies, health officials reported yesterday.

Seven cases have been confirmed — three in California and four in Nevada. Two more California cases are being investigated. Five people were hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC said five of the people who became ill drank milkshakes or smoothies made with frozen mamey fruit pulp. Four of them used pulp made by Goya Foods Inc. of Secaucus, N.J.

Mamey is a sweet, reddish tropical fruit grown mainly in Central and South America. It is also known as zapote or sapote.

The company has recalled packages of the pulp, mostly sold in Western states. A sample from one package found in Las Vegas tested positive for the bacteria that causes typhoid, the Food and Drug Administration said.

No other food was linked to the illnesses, which occurred between April and July. The victims range in age from 4 to 31.

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by a type of bacteria called Salmonella typhi. It’s become rare in the United States. There are only about 400 cases annually, and most people contract it while traveling abroad.

Symptoms include a sustained fever as high as 103 to 104 degrees, along with headache, weakness, stomach pains, or loss of appetite. Some patients have a rash of flat, rose-colored spots. It can be treated with antibiotics.

The bacteria pass through the intestinal tract and often spread to others through feces-tainted food or water.

The recalled mamey pulp was sold in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington.