At least a dozen students at Georgetown University have reported being sick with symptoms that resemble foodborne illness and an official says they may be part of a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella infections.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Ranit Mishori says the school is working to determine the cause of the illnesses.

“At this time we do not know the cause of the symptoms, but it is prudent to assume they are related to an infectious process. Please be aware that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a national outbreak of Salmonella from an unknown source,” according to a letter Mishori sent to students and staff. 

Students have reported symptoms including severe stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea, which are consistent with foodborne illness.

The school officials are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find the cause of the outbreak and determine if it is part of a 25-state outbreak that has already sickened at least 127 people. The outbreak was reported on Sept. 15.

Georgetown University health officials are telling students that if they are experiencing symptoms to limit their contact with others and stay well hydrated.

About Salmonella infections

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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Source: Georgetown University reports outbreak among students; source unknown

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