A handful of personnel at the base, home to roughly 14,700 military, civilian and contract personnel, reported to medical with food poisoning symptoms between July 15 and 19, according to an Army Central Command spokeswoman, “but only five tested positive for salmonella,” she said.
“As a proactive safety measure, the command ordered all dining and medical facilities to be inspected and personnel given refresher training for public sanitation requirements and food handling and preparation procedures between July 17-23, 2018,” Col. Angela Funaro told Army Times.
Salmonella is a food-borne illness that causes gastrointestinal discomfort or distress, which is spread by animal feces residue on meat, poultry, eggs and other foods. Adequate cooking and hand-washing while handling food are the top ways to prevent infection.
Five soldiers seems low to Margie Tolbert, who reached out to Army Times after a family member deployed to Camp Arifjan told her about the situation.
“I am told that the number of ‘unconfirmed cases’ printed in the morning report at the installation were significantly higher ... possibly as many as 40,” she said. “It seems that [MEDCOM] stopped testing for salmonella and just treated symptoms to keep the reporting numbers low.”
No new cases have been reported since July 19, Funaro said, though authorities are still working on the issue.
“During a complete inspection, preventive medicine has not located a food source for the salmonella cases linked to any dining facility, but their inspections and assessments are ongoing,” she said.
It’s possible that the salmonella originated from vendors or prepackaged foods sold at exchanges, she added.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.