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International Notes Outbreak of Salmonella oranienburg Infection -- Norway

From November 1981 to September 1982, 126 bacteriologically confirmed cases of Salmonella oranienburg infection were reported through the national reporting system of infectious diseases. Nearly all the infections were contracted in Norway.

S. oranienburg infections are usually rare in Norway; the average number recorded from 1975 to 1980 was less than four per year. Practically all these cases were contracted abroad by children less than 1 year of age coming from east Asian countries. The current outbreak has spread throughout most parts of Norway, clustering in the southeastern, central, and southwestern sections. Only six of 18 counties reported no cases. Only a few cases were reported from the two largest cities, Oslo and Bergen.

The number of cases recorded per week and per month was fairly constant throughout the period. The age distribution shows that approximately 85% of patients were more than 25 years of age (Table 3). Approximately 1/4-1/2 of the patients reported have been hospitalized, some with septicemia.

Since June-July this year, health authorities, in cooperation with the Food Control Laboratories, have strengthened their efforts to trace the sources of the outbreak. On August 27, the Food Control Laboratory in Trondelag succeeded in isolating S. oranienburg from a home-made cured meat product in a household where a female had S. oranienburg infection. When the different ingredients used in preparing this meat product were examined, S. oranienburg was isolated from a pepper box. This pepper had been bought in a nearby store belonging to a nation-wide food distribution firm. Eventually, the same laboratory succeeded in isolating S. oranienburg from six unopened pepper boxes and pepper bags obtained from different households with S. oranienburg cases and from different stores belonging to the food chain. The contaminated black pepper seems to be restricted to two different consignments imported from Brazil via the Federal Republic of Germany in April and August 1981.

Other brands of pepper from other importers have been extensively examined but have failed to reveal any positive Salmonella isolates. Further studies are in progress to clarify how the pepper contamination could have occurred. Reported by WHO Weekly Epidemiological Record 1982;57:329-30.

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