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Salmonella linked to Graham slaughterhouse

A Pierce County slaughterhouse has been linked to an outbreak of salmonella food poisoning in pork products that have now sickened at least 134 people in 10 Washington counties, health officials said Wednesday. Fifteen people have been hospitalized.

Samples collected from Kapowsin Meats in Graham last week tested positive for the rare outbreak strain of the bacteria, Salmonella I, 4, 5, 12:9:-, a germ that hasn’t been seen before in the state.

Officials cautioned there might be other sources. Exposure for many apparently came from whole roasted pigs served at private events and restaurants.

Federal and state disease detectives, including a special team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are searching for potential sources of exposure from a wide array of sites, including restaurants, markets, slaughter facilities, farms and ranches, officials with the state Department of Health said in a statement.

Officials with Kapowsin Meats didn’t immediately answer a call seeking comment. The firm is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and has cooperated with the investigation.

Food Safety officials recently issued a public-health alert because of concerns that the Washington salmonella infections might be tied to whole pigs used in pig roasts.

Most of the ill people are from King County, where there have been 84 cases, and from Snohomish County, where there have been 24 cases. Twelve cases were reported in Pierce County; five in Yakima County; two each in Clark, Mason and Thurston counties; and one each in Cowlitz, Grays Harbor and Kitsap counties.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people recover within a few days, but infections can cause serious illness or death.

Infections can be prevented by washing hands, cutting boards and kitchen surfaces with hot, soapy water; by avoiding cross-contamination of meat and other foods; and by cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

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