SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois' public health director was fired for vacationing in Mexico as the number of reported salmonella poisoning cases neared the 4,000 mark and a second brand of milk was found to be contaminated.
Gov. James R. Thompson fired Thomas Kirkpatrick Thursday night, saying he was not effectively handling the nation's largest reported outbreak of salmonella from a Mexico resort city.
'Mr. Kirkpatrick saw fit to leave his responsibilities as director of the Department of Public Health at a time when he should have been at his desk,' Thompson said. He named Inspector General Jeremy Margolis to replace Kirkpatrick, who administration sources said was vacationing in Cancun, Mexico.
Health officials Thursday said a second brand of milk, Hillfarm brand, produced at a Jewel Cos. Inc. dairy indicated salmonella contamination. They warned that all products from the dairy should be considered 'unsafe.'
At least two deaths have been linked to the nation's largest outbreak of salmonella with testing under way in the death of a thirdperson -- a 71-year-old Itasca, Ill., woman who was hospitalized after she allegedly drank milk from Jewel.
The total number of reported cases of salmonella in the outbreak stood at 3,902, with 2,923 of the cases confirmed. Illinois reported the most cases with 2,684, but cases were also confirmed in Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
'We are presumptively sure it's salmonella,' said Department of Health spokesman Chet June, referring to a one-quart paper carton of Hillfarm 2 percent milk with an April 8 shelf date. It was the second brand of milk from Jewel's Melrose Park dairy to test positively for contamination.
June said Jewel agreed to remove from its store shelves all dairy products produced at the Melrose Park dairy, including milk, cottage cheese, sour cream, whipping cream, coffee-cream, ice cream and frozen deserts.
Inspectors last week found salmonella contamination in Bluebrook brand 2 percent milk in one-gallon cartons with a March 29 shelf date. Jewel voluntarily closed the dairy Tuesday and took its milk off store shelves.
No cause for the outbreak has yet been found and officials admit the chances of discovering its source lessen with each day.
Meanwhile, officials from the Metropolitan Sanitary District softened their criticism about some Jewel stores allegedly dumping milk into storm sewers.
'We (the MSD) get billions of salmonella organisms every day,' said Cecil Lue-Hing, director of research and development for the MSD. 'A few million more we won't notice.'
Lue-Hing said people would 'have to bathe' in the water to become ill if any of the milk poured down storm sewers was contaminated. The MSD was, however, pumping discarded milk out of a storm sewer behind a Jewel store in Chicago.