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Multistate Salmonella Heidelberg Outbreak Sickens Over 300

Sarah Williams

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Sarah Williams | October 18, 2013 | 0

Salmonella Heidelberg OutbreakEven amid the government shutdown, Salmonella has managed to steal the spotlight.

A salmonella outbreak has been traced back to contaminated poultry, sickening 317 people in 20 states, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The contaminated poultry was found in three Foster Farms locations in California, the FSIS reports.

According to the CDC, the said outbreak is caused by Salmonella Heidelberg. Heidelberg is an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella, although not completely. Some antibiotics, like Ciprofloxacin may be used to treat its symptoms, according to Cargill’s FAQ page on the bacteria strain.

42% of the ill persons have been hospitalized. 77% of the infected persons are from California. No deaths have been reported.

Only two of CDC’s investigators were on duty to attend to the initial outbreak investigations as two-thirds of the agency’s workers were furloughed due to the federal government shutdown. 30 more workers were asked to go back to work to monitor the outbreak for CDC’s PulseNet, CDC Crisis Communication Specialist Barbara Reynolds told TIME. (Update: President Obama has just signed the bill to reopen the government this morning.)

Due to health concerns related to the outbreak, the USDA-FSIS issued a Public Health Alert on Oct. 7, 2013. The government shutdown, which began Oct. 1 and sent federal workers, including CDC and USFDA employees, home without pay, slowed down progress for containing the outbreak.

Approximately 42,000 cases of Salmonella are being reported in the U.S. each year, according to Food Safety News. But there are more than a million cases that remain unreported.

Federal law allows around 7.5 percent of chicken carcasses to be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. This explains why Salmonella and Campylobacter incidences are prevalent. But risks associated with salmonella increases in the hands of consumers. Thus, consumers are advised to cook their poultry well to recommended temperatures of at least 165 degrees internally to avoid contracting salmonella.

Oregon State Epidemiologist Dr. Katrina Hedberg notes that no one suddenly decided to “eat their chicken breasts raw” in her interview with Food Safety News. “Consumers have known for a long time to cook their chicken well, so something may be going on in these plants otherwise we wouldn’t have seen this outbreak.”

For more information on preventing salmonella check out our previous post, Salmonella: Facts, Prevention and Treatment.

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