In an odd twist, public health officials in the U.S. are now investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella poisoning while the death toll from the outbreak of the killer E. coli bacteria has jumped to 30 on Thursday. German health authorities have not yet found out the source of the bug, first blaming Spanish cucumbers, then tomatoes and lettuce, then German organic bean sprouts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a total of 39 individuals in 15 states are now infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Altona. Of that number, 32 patients are hospitalized.
Health officials say the poisonous infection was spread from chicks or ducklings purchased earlier this year from an Ohio hatchery and sold at agricultural supply stores around the country.
“The birds were sold at numerous agricultural outlets across the state and with these confirmed reports of Salmonella infections health officials are encouraging any purchaser of baby chicks this year to use caution in their handling and care,” the Ohio Department of Health said in a statement.
Salmonella food poisoning is the most common cause of foodborne illnesses in the United States. It is a bacterial infection caused by a variety of types of bacteria and is spread from the feces of infected people or animals. Symptoms sometimes mimic the flu with irritation and inflammation of the digestive tract, which leads to symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, fever and diarrhea, according to the CDC.
Consumers are leery about food and travel as the number of Salmonella cases increases in the U.S. and Europe scrambles for answers with the German outbreak, which is caused by the rare strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli known as STEC O104:H4.
“We’ve made virtually no progress against salmonella,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.
The CDC estimates more than 40,000 cases of Salmonella poisoning are reported in the United States every year. Since many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections may be more.
Children are the most likely to get Salmonella poisoning. Young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk. Approximately 600 people die every year from acute salmonellosis.
The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 76 million cases, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually from foodborne illness.
Quick Tips for Preventing Salmonella (Source CDC):
• Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly. Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw (unpasteurized) milk.
• If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, don't hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.
• Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.
• Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.
• Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or baby chicks, and after contact with pet feces.
• Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, snakes) and infants or immunocompromised persons.
• Don't work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.
• Mother's milk is the safest food for young infants. Breastfeeding prevents salmonellosis and many other health problems.