Salmonella outbreak closes Burger Kings in Bemidji

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BEMIDJI -- The Minnesota Department of Health said two Burger King restaurants temporarily closed in Bemidji on Thursday after reports that more than two dozen people had contracted salmonella after eating there.

Most of cases were identified in September, but the victims may have been exposed to salmonella before then, the health department said.

Two additional cases were reported this week, the Bemidji Pioneer reported, prompting the closures. The health department said it has confirmed 27 cases, and received reports of four more possible cases.

“They may have been sick a couple weeks or so before then,” said Doug Schultz, a spokesman for the health department. “It takes a while before people get symptoms, and then they’re sick enough to go to the doctor, and then we identify.”

Symptoms of salmonella, a bacterial disease that infects the intestinal tract, can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills, headache and blood in the stool.
Once the Department of Health identified the outbreak in September it put stringent interventions in place. The Burger Kings were cleaned and employees with symptoms were kept from working until they were symptom-free for 72 hours, but the precautions did not stop the outbreak.

The health department believes the outbreak is due to employee illness, and not contaminated food.

Before the restaurants can reopen each employee must be tested for salmonella twice, the Pioneer reported.

The earliest the Burger Kings could reopen is next week, according to the health department.. The restaurants must also be thoroughly re-cleaned.