Latest Salmonella Outbreak Puts 20 Percent of Victims in Hospital

The massive, 42-state <"">salmonella outbreak that has sickened almost 400 people is hospitalizing about one in five of those falling ill, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just announced.  The CDC confirmed that it is working with public health officials in many states, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the outbreak.  A source for the nationwide outbreak has not yet been determined.

USA Today reports that the CDC has increased its efforts to pin down the source of the dangerous, sometimes-deadly infection saying that people have been reporting symptoms for the past three months.  In response, said USA Today, the CDC has pulled staff from throughout its organization to work on the outbreak, according to its deputy chief of enteric diseases, Frederick Angulo.  “It’s an ongoing investigation,” Lola Russell, a spokeswoman for the agency, said, adding that, “there are no leads yet,” reported the Arizona Central.

The salmonella strain involved in this particular outbreak—Salmonella typhimurium—is considered common and is also the same strain responsible for the 2007 wide-scale outbreak that sickened over 400 people in over 40 states, WebMD said, noting that the CDC linked that outbreak to undercooked, not-ready-to-eat Banquet brand frozen pot pies.  In the past, Salmonella typhimurium outbreaks have been linked to poultry, raw milk and cheese, and pet turtles said WebMD.

WebMD noted that the CDC receives at least 40,000 reports of salmonella poisoning annually, with about 400 deaths reported each year; however, it is believed that the actual number of cases is much higher—30-fold more, said WebMD—because less serious cases are often not reported.

Salmonella poisoning causes swelling of the lining of the stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis) that is responsible for about 15% of all cases of food poisoning.  Salmonella is most serious in infants, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems. In these individuals, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites, resulting in death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.  In addition, people who have had part or all of their stomach or their spleens removed, or who have sickle cell anemia, cirrhosis of the liver, leukemia, lymphoma, malaria, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are extremely susceptible to salmonella food poisoning.  Salmonella also has potential long-term health consequences, with some victims developing a disease called Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat form of reactive arthritis that causes severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.  Reiter’s Syndrome can plague its victims for mo
nths or years, and can lead to chronic arthritis.

Newsday is reporting that, in New York, three Long Islanders may have also been sickened.

Cynthia Brown, spokeswoman for the Nassau County Health Department, told the paper that one case has been confirmed and two additional cases have been reported in Suffolk County.  Forty-two states—including Georgia, Ohio, California, Minnesota, Arizona, and New York, have reported illnesses from the same type of salmonella bacteria, said Newsday.  The CDC reports that all 388 confirmed cases have been genetically fingerprinted as the Typhimurium type of salmonella, said Newsday.

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