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Gastrointestinal Issues County Warns Of Outbreak
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San Joaquin County officials are warning of an outbreak in a gastrointestinal disease throughout the region.

"Over the past year, San Joaquin County Public Health Services has seen a large increase in the number of reported cases of the gastrointestinal disease, Campylobacteriosis," said Dr. Karen Furst, San Joaquin County Health Officer.

In 2010 there were almost 100 more cases reported (233) compared to 2009 (135). The rise began during the summer and fall of 2010. San Joaquin County Public Health Services conducted a study to look for a common source and specimens were sent to the California Department of Public Health Laboratory for more specific DNA identification. No common source of exposure was discovered.

"We currently have about twice the expected number of reported cases this year," Dr. Furst added.

This disease is caused by a type of bacteria called Campylobacter, which is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in the United States. Campylobacter is most commonly associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry, or improper food handling causing cross contamination. Other possible sources include handling infected animals, and consuming products made with unpasteurized milk, such as homemade Mexican style cheese (queso fresco) which is often sold illegally at flea markets.

Symptoms of campylobacteriosis include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), abdominal cramps, and fever. A small percentage of people may develop joint pain and swelling. Persons with these symptoms are advised to contact their health care provider. Most people with campylobacteriosis recover fully without antibiotics. A rare condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome that causes weakness and paralysis can occur several weeks after the initial illness.

Following just a few food safety steps can help prevent harmful bacteria from making your family sick:

• Thoroughly cook all meats (especially poultry), so that the meat is no longer pink and any juices run clear. All poultry should be cooked to reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F for 15 seconds.

• Make sure that other foods, such as fruits or vegetables, do not come into contact with cutting boards or knives that have been used with raw poultry or meat. To avoid cross-contamination, carefully clean all cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with soap and hot water after preparing raw poultry or meat.

• Wash hands before preparing food and immediately after handling any raw poultry or meat.

• Always refrigerate poultry, meat and dairy products. Never leave them at room temperature.

• Avoid drinking or eating unpasteurized milk and raw milk products such as queso fresco.

• Wash hands well with soap and water after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling animals.