Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Dry Dog Food

A 2006-2007 Salmonella outbreak has been linked to contaminated dry dog food produced by Mars Petcare in Pennsylvania.  “This is the first time human illness has been linked to dry dog food,” said U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) epidemiologist Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, who co-authored a report on the finding.  The CDC is unclear how <"">Salmonella found its way into the food, Barton Behravesh said adding, “There are a number of possible ways that that could happen and that’s something we are still trying to figure out.”  She also said that there have been previous cases of people contracting Salmonella infection from contaminated pet treats.

The Salmonella infection affected about 70 people nationwide.  Approximately 40 percent were infants, according to a report published in the May 16 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  Of the 61 whose ages were available, the median age was three years; 24 were under one year old.  Of the 38 for whom clinical data was available, 15 had bloody diarrhea.  Of the 45 whose hospitalization status was known, 11 required hospitalization.  There were no deaths and no pet illnesses; however, Salmonella was found in feces from dogs who ate the food and in open and unopened bags of the food, the CDC said.

“The most important thing is to wash your hands right after you handle any dry dog food, any other pet food, pet treats, even supplements or vitamins,” Barton Behravesh said.  “Keep infants and other young children away from pet food, because kids tend to want to see what their dogs are eating and grab at the pet food and play with it or even put it in their mouth.”  The CDC say that Salmonella infections in humans from dry dog food may be an under-recognized source of illness in people, especially young children.

“There have been problems with pet foods before,” said Dr. Pascal James Imperato, chairman of the department of preventive medicine and community health at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Manhattan.  “If the food had any animal product in it, there could have been contamination, or if it was being processed in a plant where they were also processing animal product, then contamination can easily occur.  We are likely to see many more of these problems,” he said.

The CDC says about 40,000 cases of Salmonellosis are reported annually and can occur when food is improperly stored or handled and when preparers do not wash their hands or do not sanitize implements involved in meat storage.  Salmonella is a common organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.  Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain and cramping within 12 to 72 hours of infection.  Salmonellosis lasts a week and most recover without treatment; however, hospitalization may be required when the infection spreads.  Without treatment, severe cases can result in death.  Also, some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.

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