ENID, Okla. — Public health professionals are examining people suspected of having typhoid fever amid a cluster of confirmed cases in Garfield County, but the number of people diagnosed remains unknown.
Acute disease service epidemiologists and Garfield County Health Department nurses are actively interviewing all suspected cases of typhoid fever in the Enid area, said Tony Sellars, Oklahoma State Department of Health spokesman.
The Oklahoma City-based OSDH would not reveal how many local residents are diagnosed with or suspected to have typhoid fever as of Tuesday evening.
On Monday, a Health Department news release stated the cases are confined to a single family group and there are no indications of transmission or risk of typhoid fever spreading to the community.
All local facilities referred questions to OSDH, which would not confirm or deny any cases in Enid.
“We can only say there are a cluster of cases in Garfield County confined to a family group source,” Sellars said.
In each interview with epidemiologists and nurses, a determination is made as to whether that person has an occupation or engages in any activities that may place the public or other persons at risk, Sellars said.
Sellars said examples of such occupations or activities would be:
• A food handler at a local restaurant, convenience store or food packaging facility.
• A person who prepares foods for family, friends, group gatherings at church or the basketball booster club.
• Caretaker of other people, whether working in a day care or in a nursing home, or caring for others in their home.
• Attends or lives in a setting where stool organisms might be more readily transmitted, such as a day care, a nursing home, the church Mother’s Day Out, a developmentally delayed day care or school classroom in a school.
If the determination is made that a risk exists, Sellars said the person would be required to refrain from those occupations or activities until further notice.
AdvancePierre Foods, Enid’s largest private employer, issued the following statement: “We are aware of this regional outbreak, monitoring the situation very closely and taking all the necessary steps to assure the health and safety of our APF family members and the products we produce.
“All AdvancePierre Foods processing plants are federally regulated establishments and maintain the highest degree of product safety and employee welfare. We have validated food defense, employee health and safety, personal hygiene and site security procedures in place, including protocols to prevent potential impacts from emerging public health-related events to our team members, our factories and our food products.”
Aaron Mullins, with Wal-Mart media relations, said there were no reported cases of typhoid fever at the Enid Wal-Mart Supercenter. The local store manager was not available for comment on Tuesday.
When asked if typhoid was at Chisholm Public Schools, Superintendent Roydon Tilley said he “cannot confirm that for confidentiality reasons.”
“If we had a student like that, we would not allow them to come to school,” Tilley said.
Amber Fitzgerald, human resources and communications director for Enid Public Schools, said the Enid district has no confirmed cases.
At Garfield County Health Department in Enid, typhoid vaccine injections are $77 because they generally are not covered by insurance, as it is considered an overseas vaccine and is not required in the United States, an employee said.
Typhoid fever is uncommon in Oklahoma and generally is contracted during overseas travel. One to two cases are reported in the state each year.
The illness is treated with antibiotics. Symptoms include high fever, between 102 and 104 degrees, headache, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. Some victims report constipation, diarrhea and a rash of flat, rose-colored spots on the torso.
Typhoid fever is not an airborne disease, and is contracted through eating or drinking food or beverages that have been contaminated with the feces of someone with typhoid, or if the bacterium gets into the water used for drinking or washing uncooked foods like fruits and vegetables.
To avoid exposure, health care professional urge people to wash, cook or peel fruits and vegetables, and practice good hand-washing techniques: use warm water, lather hands with soap, scrub hands together for 20 seconds, paying close attention to scrubbing the ends of fingers and around fingernails, rinse with warm water, dry with a disposable, single-use towel and turn off faucets with the towel.
Staff writer Jessica Miller contributed to this report.՛