Salmonella Outbreak Source Continues to Be Elusive

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Over the past three months food tainted with the bacteria salmonella has caused an outbreak of food poisoning, making 388 people sick and sending about 70 of them to the hospital, according to U.S. health officials.

The salmonella outbreak has affected people in 42 states. It seems to have been caused by a single strain of salmonella, but so far no one has figured out what is causing it. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with state health authorities, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to identify the source and track the outbreak.

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The bacteria is called salmonella Typhimurium. The cases have been linked by DNA fingerprint of the bacteria done in the laboratory.

Salmonellosis is the illness caused by infection of the salmonella bacteria. It can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps from 12 to 72 hours after infection. It usually lasts four to seven days. Most people recover without treatment. However, in some the diarrhea is so severe they require hospitalization. It can be life threatening to the very young, the very old and those with impaired immune systems.

The most common causes are poultry, produce, raw milk and cheese that carry the bacteria. The best protection against salmonella is careful handling of raw meat, frequent hand washing and not eating raw or undercooked meat. Thorough cooking of meat will kill the bacteria.

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