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    Salmonella sickened Disney visitors

    ©Associated Press
    August 24, 2002

    ORLANDO -- A salmonella outbreak at Walt Disney World sickened as many as 141 people, including visitors attending an athletic competition for organ transplant recipients, health officials said Friday.

    Eighteen cases were confirmed by laboratory tests. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimates that 141 people from 32 states who attended the U.S. Transplant Games in late June may have gotten sick.

    The source of the outbreak was traced to prepackaged, diced Roma tomatoes that came from a Naples food processor, Orange County epidemiologist Bill Toth said.

    No deaths were reported.

    Salmonella is a food-borne illness that can cause diarrhea and fever and serious infections in children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems, such as some organ transplant recipients.

    "Some of them have a tendency to have a quicker outset of the disease," Toth said.

    The tomatoes were used at six Disney World restaurants, including three at the All-Star Resort, two at the Port Orleans-French Quarter resort and another near Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom.

    The outbreak was first identified in July by the Minnesota Department of Health, which reported two cases in people who had been to the U.S. Transplant Games. The CDC was able to trace the source of the outbreak by obtaining 1,100 e-mail addresses of the attendees from organizers and asking where they ate during the June 25-29 competition, Toth said. Of 369 who responded, 82 reported being sick.

    Because transplant recipients are more susceptible to salmonella and infections than the general population, the CDC is suggesting that doctors prescribe antibiotics for transplant patients who may have salmonella.

    Once the salmonella outbreak turned up, the contaminated tomatoes immediately were taken out of circulation, Disney spokeswoman Marilyn Waters said.

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