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Informational Update for Conference Participants

Public Health officials continue to investigate an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness associated with attending the Open Source Bridge Conference at the Eliot Center in downtown Portland from June 23 to 26, 2015.

We have determined that Salmonella caused gastrointestinal illness among conference attendees. Laboratory tests helped investigators identify a distinct Salmonella strain (Salmonella typhimurium) in six attendees who became ill between June 26th and June 30th. In addition to these six cases, 45 other people reported having symptoms consistent with Salmonellosis. They were among more than 220 conference attendees who responded to a Health Department survey that conference organizers shared last week.

The Health Department is continuing its investigation to identify the source of the bacteria that caused the illness. There is no indication that this outbreak spread beyond people connected to the conference. We are monitoring illness in Oregon to assure this is the case.

Salmonella is a bacteria that causes people to develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps (also known as gastrointestinal illness). Most people start getting sick one to three days after infection, though that can vary from twelve hours to seven days. While it is common for people to recover without treatment, they are often ill for several days, a week, or sometimes longer. The elderly, infants, and people with an impaired immune system are more likely to have a severe illness.

There is no vaccine to prevent salmonellosis. Avoiding undercooked animal products (eggs, poultry, or meat) is a good way to avoid exposure to Salmonella. It is also important to avoid cross-contamination between raw meats and ready-to-eat foods like produce. In fact, large outbreaks of salmonellosis have been linked to produce like bean sprouts and cantaloupes, and to poultry and poultry products. As with all foodborne illnesses, outbreaks can also occur when there are breaches in good food handling practices. For more information on good food-handling practices, go to: http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/salmonella/

The Salmonella bacteria can be passed from person to person by contact with stool (feces) of a person shedding the bacteria (sick or well). Therefore, to prevent spread to household members, please wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet. If you or someone in your household develops diarrhea and works as a food handler, healthcare worker, or in a childcare, please contact your local public health authority for testing and do not go to work while ill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate about 1.2 million cases of salmonella infection occur every year in the United States. A useful Q & A and lots of other Salmonella information can be found at the CDC’s main Salmonella website: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/

There are many causes of gastrointestinal illness. If you feel sick, we recommend you seek care from a healthcare provider, who will work with you to diagnose the cause and get you appropriate treatment.

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