Woman sickened by uncommon Salmonella on cucumbers sues

Kathleen Dvergsten, of Farmington, Minn., has sued a California produce distributor, claiming that she was severely sickened by Salmonella-tainted cucumbers.

In a federal court filing, Dvergsten said that about a month ago she ate a salad containing tainted cucumbers at a Maplewood restaurant. She suffered cramping, vomiting and near constant diarrhea so severe that she was hospitalized for several days. Tests revealed that she, like several hundred people nationwide, had succumbed to an outbreak of Salmonella traced to Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce of San Diego.

It was determined to be a fairly unusual form of Salmonella, Salmonella Poona. Food safety attorney Bill Marler, who represents Dvergsten, said they have seen that variety of Salmonella on some Mexican produce in the last few years.

The dozen confirmed victims in Minnesota range in age from 8 to 79 and are from nine metro and greater Minnesota counties. Their illnesses were reported between August 13 through August 25. Six were hospitalized. All are recovering.

The cucumbers were ''slicer'' or ''American'' cucumbers imported from Baja California, Mexico. They have been voluntarily recalled by the distributor.

The suspect cucumbers are dark green and typically between seven and 10 inches long. If consumers are unsure about cucumbers they have purchased, they should contact the store they purchased them, or throw them away.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps and fever. Symptoms typically begin within 12 to 72 hours after exposure but can begin up to a week after exposure. Salmonella infections usually run their course in five to seven days.

A quarter of laboratory-confirmed cases require hospitalization. Salmonella infection can lead to death, particularly in the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.

About 700 cases of salmonellosis are reported annually in Minnesota.  

The outbreak is under investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and other states.

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