Gardnerville woman contracts salmonella |

Gardnerville woman contracts salmonella

Rhonda Costa
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal News ServiceGardnerville resident Sue Bennett prepares to wash some celery at her home Thursday. She became ill with salmonella after eating packaged peanut butter crackers. Since Sept. 1, 500 people have contracted salmonella " including Bennett.

Never in her life has Sue Bennett been as sick as she was just days after Thanksgiving.

She suffered from nausea, diarrhea, headache, dizziness ” most of these symptoms for 12 days ” losing 20 pounds in the process.

“I kept thinking, where, what had we eaten,” Bennett, 64, of Gardnerville said. “I felt awful and only got worse.

“We went out to dinner that Monday. I had a chicken quesadilla and Bill ate something different. I felt queasy Tuesday and it just got worse as time went on. I felt really bad Thursday and went to Bill’s doctor, who gave me an anti-nausea pill.”

Sue Bennett has Kaiser insurance and the closest medical facility is in Folsom, Calif., three hours away.

“When you have diarrhea as bad as I did, 3 hours on the road is not an option,” she said. “I went to Minden Medical Center and saw Dr. Kenney. I had yellow skin, was dizzy, dehydrated, a little incoherent, and he put me on an IV and ordered some lab work. He gave me a prescription for an antibiotic and potassium and told me to eat baked potatoes and bananas.

“He called Sunday morning with the lab results. I had salmonella.”

A staple snack in the Bennett home is Austin and Keebler peanut butter snack crackers. They are the two most popular items eaten by many who have been infected with salmonella typhimurium. Because of a massive recall of more than 180 food items, which are made from product of The Peanut Corporation of America in Blakely, Ga., Bennett found out the crackers were part of the recall.

She spent more than an hour on the phone with the Centers for Disease Control in Georgia, twice, and nearly 45 minutes with the Douglas County Health Department.

They asked her about fresh fruits and vegetables ” when and where purchased, how does she clean them; string cheese, the brand and lot number. But did not question her about any product with peanut butter. Bennett did have the crackers in the pantry but did not attribute her illness to them.

“It wasn’t a concern at that time,” she said. “The CDC could tell it was a different strain of salmonella. They said it could be from chicken. But when they called back, they said it was most likely from a peanut butter product, because there were several strains of this salmonella poisoning going on.”

Lola Russell, spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said each (infected) person is interviewed with a list of questions. There was an initial case control study by the CDC, then a second study that suggested association with peanut butter, with the addition of products associated with peanut butter.

“We began with 300 food products (in the questionnaire),” Russell said. “We narrowed the questionnaire down from there.”

Russell confirmed there have been more than 500 people infected with the salmonella strain ” five in Nevada ” and eight deaths (none in Nevada). Onset of illness dates range from Sept. 1, 2008 to Jan. 16, 2009. The illness hasn’t been association with national brand jarred peanut butter sold in grocery stores.

Bennett credits Dr. Kenney and the staff at Minden Medical Center for their quick action and accurate diagnosis of her illness.

“They were very thorough. The best.

“But after all the questions from the CDC and Douglas County Health Department, you become very aware of how lax you can get when it comes to properly washing your fruits and vegetables.

“I got lucky we went to Minden when we did. I’m very relieved it’s over. I was shocked to find out that’s what it was, you don’t think of salmonella.

“I’ve seen what it can do with an infant. My son, Todd, had it when he was 6 and 9-months-old. You’re terrified as a mother. Then to have it yourself, whoa.

“Those other crackers are long gone. I now have Ritz peanut butter crackers on the shelf.”

– Contact Rhonda Costa at or 881-1223.