DETROIT – In a medical mystery involving one of Detroit's largest hospitals, more than a dozen patients, all in the same unit at Henry Ford Hospital, contracted salmonella last week.
The hospital is working with state officials to try to figure out the source of the outbreak, but so far, no one knows where it came from.
Usually salmonella is associated with contaminated food, but that's not the case in this instance. Officials say it does not appear to be a food-related issue. They are still trying to find the source of the salmonella.
This type of incident is why doctors and nurses wash their hands so often.
"Seven patients remain in the hospital and are doing well and are isolated as an added safety precaution," Henry Ford Hospital said in a statement. "No new patients have been identified this week. There's no evidence at this time that the illness is food related."
If it's not food related, where did it come from? Well, that's the million-dollar question.
"Salmonella can be transmitted basically by anything that enters your mouth, whether it's a dirty hand, touching something that has salmonella and touching your mouth, or food," said Dr. Frank McGeorge. "In a hospital setting, it could be just about anything, and that's where the detective work happens and really has to take place."
Salmonella isn't typically life threatening and in most cases goes away in less than a week, even if untreated.
Dr. McGeorge says typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
"If it gets more severe, they can develop a fever and ultimately, it can become bloody diarrhea," McGeorge said. "That's when it becomes much more concerning. The hospital acted immediately by restricting the patients by identifying them, by treating them and by preventing any further spread. So they reacted to this issue as quickly as possible and as efficiently as possible."
The seven patients that have been released are not a threat to anyone around them. As for the others still in the hospital, they could still be there because of what brought them there in the first place.