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Published: Thursday, 2/12/2009

Salmonella kills second Akron-area woman

BY LISA ABRAHAM
AKRON BEACON JOURNAL

AKRON - A second Akron-area resident has died from a nationwide salmonella outbreak, state and county health officials announced yesterday.

The Ohio Department of Health said an elderly Medina County woman died in January a month after being infected with salmonella bacteria. This brings the U.S. death toll to at least nine since the salmonella outbreak began in October.

More than 600 people in 44 states have become sick from the outbreak, which public health officials have linked to tainted peanut butter and peanut paste from a Peanut Corp. of America plant in Blakely, Ga. The Lynchburg, Va., company is under criminal investigation over allegations that it distributed the food even though it knew it was tainted. The company since has closed the plant.

The state's other death was of an elderly woman in a Summit County nursing home, who died in early January after becoming ill on Christmas.

Health officials are not releasing the names of either woman or details of their illnesses.

Ohio is reporting 92 cases linked to the salmonella outbreak, the most in the United States.

In Washington, the owner of Peanut Corp. refused to testify to Congress amid the disclosure that he allegedly urged his workers to ship bacteria-tainted products.

Stewart Parnell repeatedly invoked his right not to incriminate himself before the House subcommittee holding a hearing on the salmonella outbreak.

Mr. Parnell sat stiffly, his hands folded in his lap at the witness table, as Rep. Greg Walden (R., Ore.) held up a clear jar of his company's products wrapped in crime-scene tape, and asked him if he would be willing to eat the food.

"Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, on advice of my counsel, I respectively decline to answer your questions based on the protections afforded me under the U.S. Constitution," Mr. Parnell said.

After repeating the statement several times, he was dismissed from the hearing.

Shortly afterward, a lab tester testified that the company discovered salmonella at its Georgia plant as far back as 2006.

The House panel released

e-mails obtained by its investigators showing Mr. Parnell ordered products identified with salmonella shipped and quoting his complaints that tests discovering the contaminated food were "costing us huge $$$$$$."

People infected with salmonella have ranged in age from 2 months to 98 years. Most people who become sick from salmonella recover within a few days. However, for the elderly, the very young, and those with weakened immune systems, the infection can be deadly.

Symptoms of salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps that typically begin 12 to 72 hours after infection.



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