Wasco health fax 1984

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The images on the right are of a fax of the "preliminary" report of the Wasco County health dept and other health agencies investigating the salmonella outbreak in The Dalles in Sep 1984. The box below is a text representation of that fax. Below the box is a small discussion of the implications of this interim report.

TELEPHONE (503) 295-4636 [?]
November 9, 1984
[The question marks in the box on the left refer to uncertainty about the phone number and zip code, those numbers being somewhat unreadable.]
Preliminary report summary of salmonellosis outbreak, The Dalles, Oregon. The report was prepared by the Oregon Health Division.

This outbreak which occurred during the month of September 1984 was investigated by staff from the local health department, Oregon Health Division, the U.S. Public Health Services Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

There were 750 cases of gastrointestinal illness reported in association with this outbreak. Of these, 619 met the strict case definition. 328 cases were laboratory confirmed with Salmonella typhimurium.

The investigation included interviewing ill persons; restaurant inspections; interviewing restaurant employees; identifying food sources; and laboratory investigations.

Four primary explanations were considered. The evidence for and against each are discussed below:

1) Common source -- No common food source of any food item for all ten restaurants was identified. No outbreaks in other communities is further evidence against a common food source.
2) Intentional contamination of food -- No evidence supports this hypothesis except the observation that salad bar food items were implicated in 8 of the 10 restaurants and salad bars are accessible to the public. Evidence against this includes the fact that most of the involved restaurants had at least one employee whose illness began before any patrons became ill. Further evidence includes the fact that two of the involved restaurants did not have salad bars, and that even in restaurants with salad bars, several ill patrons ate only foods served directly from the kitchen.
3). Improper temperatures for holding food -- No evidence was found that foods were being held at improper temperatures.
4) Contamination of food by infected food handler -- The weight of evidence supports this explanation for the outbreak:
a) In seven of the eight restaurants involved only in the second outbreak wave, at least one food handler was ill before patrons were exposed.

News Release November 9, 1984 Page 2

b) The food items implicated as the source of infection by food history analysis are generally ones that are handled extensively by food handlers, then eaten without being cooked.
c) The meals eaten by ill patrons of each restaurant ranged over several days. This suggests ongoing contamination of foods.
d) The multiplicity of food sources for the involved restaurants ruled out a common source.
e) The observation that some ill patrons had eaten foods served directly from the kitchen, suggests contamination of multiple food items by food handlers.

The preliminary conclusion of this investigation is, therefore that this outbreak resulted from contamination of raw foods by infected food handlers. Such contamination could have occurred where food handlers failed to wash their hands adequately after bowel movements and then touched raw foods.

A final report will be prepared by staff from the Centers for Disease Control (in collaboration with the other agencies) after refined analysis of the data is completed.

The report concludes, on the basis of the agencies' investigation into many aspects of the outbreak, that there was no intentional contamination, ie it was NOT a "bio-terror" operation. It is not known whether or when any "final report" may have been issued, and there the matter may have rested, though it must be said that in some quarters, there were suspicions that sannyasins were behind it.

But it was not the big story it eventually became until Sheela and her "gang" left the Ranch a year later and Osho held press conferences to answer questions about what had happened. Then, a reporter from Portland did broach this subject, in fact the only hit of "salmonella" in the CD-ROM, from Sep 16 1985. The same hit is the only one of the thirty hits for "Dalles" that touches on this particular incident.

A: Yes.
A: Evidence police will have to find, but my sannyasins have much information about it.

This is the only statement known from Osho on this matter as of this writing. We can observe that since the official investigation was somewhat dormant, it would not have been difficult for him to have deflected the question. Instead, by saying that his people had a lot of information about it, he was inviting a full-blown criminal investigation, as he did with the wiretapping and other alleged crimes, even bringing up repeatedly an attempted poisoning of The Dalles' municipal water system which had not been on anyone's radar.

These disclosures and invitations to authorities cannot be viewed as "self-interest" in the normal sense. Osho could have equivocated, done nothing and otherwise managed to steer inquiry away from sannyasins' participation in the salmonella story, in the business-as-usual way of priests and politicians everywhere. But he didn't. What might we make of this?

Those who might feel to have a "negative" interpretation can easily do so, but it will largely hinge on a notion of self-interest, as if going against one's perceived-and-defined-from-the-outside self-interest can only be crazy or stupid. Given the troubles created for Osho and his people by the massive incursion of law-enforcement agencies, including shortening his life by potentially many years, there might be something to be said for that.

But there is more to it than that. Those looking for a more "positive" interpretation can take it as an indication that Osho was willing to put us and himself through anything to further our growth. "Self-interest", in the normal sense, was not and never has been the highest concern.

Sannyasins who stayed with Osho after the Ranch had the opportunity to view the whole exercise and all its ramifications as a "device", perhaps a gigantic therapy group, with lessons for all about their relationships with power, their own and others'. And the lessons were existential, not just conceptual. And to the extent that awareness was involved, there was real transformation.