Health officials investigate Salmonella outbreak, possibly linked to limu poke

olakai-farm-website-salmonella

**UPDATE: Health officials have issued a cease-and-desist order on the distribution and sale of all products, including ogo and sea asparagus. View the update here.**

The Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) is investigating 14 cases among children and adults of Salmonella infection on Oahu.

Health officials say all of the cases developed diarrheal illness from mid- to late October. Four of those cases required hospitalization.

A source has not been confirmed, however preliminary investigations found a possible link to poke that contained limu (also called “ogo” or “seaweed”). According to the Department of Health’s Sanitation Branch, the tainted product may have come from a farm in Kahuku called Olakai.

“If you have purchased any limu from anybody in its raw form or out of some kind of poke product that has it, it’s best not to eat it and get rid of it,” said Peter Oshiro, environmental health program manager, Food Safety Program, Sanitation Branch, Hawaii State Department of Health.

“We found that interesting — it all seemed to be sourced from one farm, so we started to investigate that further and collected some samples, and some of the samples have actually come back positive for Salmonella species,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.

The farm was ordered by the department to halt operations and advise its customers to remove product from sale immediately.

Owner Wenhao Sun tells us cleaning began as soon as he found out the test came back positive. Samples will be retested once the facility is cleaned.

“We are cleaning out the water pipe in the water tank,” he said. “We don’t know exactly the result, actually we don’t know the source, so it’s still under the pending of the source, but just the regular sanitation.”

Olakai is still allowed to sell sea asparagus, which is housed in a separate facility.

Salmonella is a group of bacteria that can cause illness in humans who come in contact with affected animals or their waste, either by direct contact or by contaminated food or water.

An alert has been issued to local physicians to be on the lookout for additional cases.

Common symptoms of Salmonella infection are diarrhea (which may be bloody), abdominal pain, and fever. Nausea and vomiting can also occur.

Symptoms typically begin within 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria. Persons who are experiencing these symptoms should seek medical care. Infants and the elderly, as well as persons with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems, are vulnerable to more serious illness and even death.

As with many other foodborne illnesses, Salmonella infection can be prevented by thoroughly cooking food to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Washing hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw food is also an effective preventive measure.

There is no vaccine to prevent Salmonellosis.

Click here for more information on Salmonella.

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