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PITTSBURGH -- Salmonellosis cases linked to the Sheetz convenience stores increased to 218 Thursday, up from 50 a week earlier, reported the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
Authorities have been focusing on people who contracted salmonellosis after eating at Sheetz stores between July 2 and 10, but Dr. Danae Bixler, West Virginia'a director of infectious disease epidemiology, said her office has found some victims who ate there as early as June 30. It is sometimes difficult to determine when people contracted the infection because some customers ate at a Sheetz on several consecutive days, she said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health, which is leading the investigation, has identified produce as the likely source of the outbreak, with Roma tomatoes or lettuce being the most likely candidates.
In Pennsylvania, 180 salmonellosis cases in 31 counties are linked to the outbreak, up from 170 cases Wednesday. West Virginia has 25 confirmed cases, and Ohio has 13. Maryland and Virginia public health officials are investigating 38 salmonellosis cases in which the patients ate at Sheetz -- up from 29 the previous day -- but have not definitively linked any to the outbreak.
An official with Wheeling, W. Va.-based Coronet Foods Inc., which supplied tomatoes to Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz during the time people became sick, has said that the tomatoes in the outbreak came from Central Florida. Florida agriculture officials, however, have not been asked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate any growers or packers, said Terence McElroy, spokesman with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The tomato-growing season in Central Florida was over more than a month ago, he said, meaning it would be unlikely investigators would find any tomatoes there to test.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health also is monitoring a spike of a different strain of salmonellosis cases that has been hitting the eastern part of the state for the past month, said spokesman Richard McGarvey. Those cases have not been linked to any food establishment or food, he said. Fewer than 50 cases have been reported, and they might not be linked to one another, he said.
Salmonellosis causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever, usually within 12 to 72 hours of infection. The illness lasts up to 10 days and is rarely fatal.