Salmonella Outbreak, Death Linked to Ground Turkey

One person has died and 76 people have been sickened in connection with a multi-state <"">Salmonella outbreak that is spanning 26 states since March.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a public health alert following detection of the outbreak via PulseNet, which confirmed the genetic Salmonella print in fresh and frozen ground turkey, said MSNBC. PulseNet is the nation’s foodborne illness detection system.

Of those sickened, 58 have been confirmed by health officials who report that those sickened range in age from under one year to 88 years of age; the median age is 23. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that at least 22 people have been hospitalized, to date, in connection with this outbreak. In Ohio and Michigan each, 10 have been sickened; 9 have fallen ill in Texas, all other states report one illness each, said MSNBC. The sickness began around March 9 and continued through yesterday, say health officials. Illnesses reported after July 5 might not have been logged due to lags between illness and reporting.

Foodborne pathogens can be dangerous, sometimes deadly, leaving sufferers with food poisoning symptoms that range from gastrointestinal upsets to serious life-long health issues. Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, and persons with HIV infection or who are undergoing chemotherapy.

The most common manifestations of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 6 to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting that can last up to seven days. The illness usually lasts four to seven days. In some patients, however, the illness becomes so severe that hospitalization is required.

According to MSNBC, cultures from four ground turkey samples purchased from retail stores from March 7 to June 27 revealed the specific strain in this outbreak: Salmonella Heidelberg. This strain seems to be resistant to a number of common antibiotics.

Dangerous, sometimes deadly, Salmonella strains have become drug resistant. As a matter-of-fact, food safety watchdog group, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) just said it filed a regulatory petition asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to deem four antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strains as adulterants in certain meats, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP). The four strains include Salmonella Heidelberg as well as Newport, Hadar, and Typhimurium. All have been linked with foodborne illness outbreaks, CIDRAP added.

When pathogens, such as the foodborne bacteria Salmonella become resistant to antibiotic treatment, treatment options are minimized, treatment becomes significantly more difficult, and patients cannot always be brought back to their presickness state.

MSNBC warns that fresh or frozen turkey should be cooked thoroughly to internal temperatures of 165 degrees Fahrenheit; a food thermometer is the only effective way in which to ensure proper cooking temperature, health officials noted.

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