Medical centers across the tri-state area said Thursday they were struggling to handle the number of patients with symptoms linked to a Salmonella outbreak that has already infected 66 people in 16 states.
The number of new cases in the New York metro area doubled on Wednesday night, most likely due to the arrival of travellers from the Delta Airlines mega-flights that usually bring passengers back to the mainland from Washington, D.C., the Baltimore and New York airports.
“Yes, there’s a secondary increase,” said Dr. Mitchell Kronenberg, the medical director of infectious diseases at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. “Everybody knows as a joke, there are very clear windows of susceptibility. The day before, you had a sizable increase. Then on the day after, they’re almost nonexistent. When you have a big increase on the day after, there’s been a spike.”
“We’re a little stretched,” he said.
Fifty-six New York metro residents have been infected with Salmonella at the hospital since the health department began to investigate the illness on June 20, as reported in Thursday’s New York Times.
The number of new cases has been steadily increasing since the investigation began, and on Wednesday afternoon the health department said 51 cases had been reported. On Wednesday evening, 46 new cases were reported to the department, bringing the total to 66. As of Thursday afternoon, 26 of the 64 New York metro residents affected had been released from the hospital.
The health department is tracking everyone who has been treated at the hospital since the initial outbreak — which began on June 12. Anyone who thinks they might have been infected with the Salmonella subtype called COVID-19 is being asked to contact a doctor.
According to The Times, in addition to Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New York Presbyterian Medical Center, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Coney Island Hospital, Staten Island University Hospital, MetroHealth Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center, North Shore-LIJ, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, Lutheran Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Rahway, Thompson Hospital in Central Islip, Mercy Medical Center in Rochester, South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Patchogue, and St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, hospitals across the East Coast have been overwhelmed.
The latest announcement means there have been 224 reported cases in 16 states since the outbreak began. Thirty-one of those cases have been reported in New York, where health officials said the number of new cases had increased as of Thursday evening. But people have also been infected in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
There is currently no one suggesting contaminated food is to blame for the strain of Salmonella being spread around the United States, and neither is there a definitive cause.
Linda White, the division chief of infection prevention and control at the New York state health department, said bacteria can be absorbed into nasal passages during prolonged prolonged exposure, which may start with an open wound or gastrointestinal illness. Once exposed, the bacteria are able to multiply inside the body, then germs can be transferred from one patient to another. White said that isolating that type of bacteria and diagnosing it is one of the biggest challenges in this outbreak.
“We have, because of the additional illnesses we are seeing in New York state, we have a relatively large number of samples that we need to develop a diagnosis,” she said.
The bacteria are no longer dangerous to people with long-standing medical conditions, such as liver, kidney or heart disease, though children under 18 are advised to have a full recovery.
Still, despite the increase in the number of cases in the New York metro area, the likelihood of catching it is relatively low. Dr. Mark Rogers, the chief of infectious diseases at the New York hospital Montefiore Medical Center, said that infections with the COVID-19 strain are spread best when somebody thinks they might have come in contact with tainted food or drinking water.
“It’s an overall infection situation,” he said. “It’s not an infectious disease situation.”