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Nevada Lab First To Discover Salmonella, Cucumber Link

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

An infectious disease testing laboratory in Reno was the first to spot the correlation between sick residents and cucumbers tainted with bacteria, an epidemic that has now hit 31 states. Reno Public Radio’s Esther Ciammachilli has more.

At this point, 418 people including nine in Nevada have gotten sick from the bacteria Salmonella Poona. But before the CDC knew what was causing the outbreak, the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory was working to solve this problem.

Local health authorities questioned a small cluster of patients who were infected with the bacteria and found a link between three foods the patients had eaten, one of which was cucumbers. Samples of the bacteria were sent to the Nevada State Public Health lab, where scientists tested them against cucumbers that were known to be contaminated. Stephanie Van Hooser is the lab’s administrative director. 

“We did find the suspect organism and did DNA fingerprinting on the organism, uploaded it to the national database and it was an exact match to the illnesses seen in multiple states.”

In short, Nevada was the first state to identify the source of the Salmonella epidemic. 

The CDC reports the tainted cucumbers most likely came from Mexico and the grocery stores they were sold in have not yet been identified.

Esther Ciammachilli is a former part-time broadcaster at KUNR Public Radio.