An outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg has sickened 278 people in 17 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among those sickened, 42% have required hospitalization—almost twice the percentage that are typically hospitalized with a Salmonella outbreak, and 13% of cases have invasive infections. Multidrug-resistant infections can increase the risk of hospitalization, possible treatment failure, and death.
What: A 17-state outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg has sickened 278 people, and hospitalized 42% of those sickened. Illnesses are associated with contaminated Foster Farms chicken products produced at three of the company’s California facilities. CDC investigators have identified seven strains of Salmonella Heidelberg associated with this outbreak, of which four are rarely seen by the CDC. Those four rare strains have tested positive for antibiotic resistance, meaning that those bacteria are capable of causing an infection that is untreatable by some—if not multiple—antibiotics. Illnesses associated with this outbreak have been documented by the CDC from March 1 to September 24, 2013, and linked together as part of a single outbreak by using “DNA fingerprinting” PFGE technology. One of the strains of Salmonella fingerprinted was the same strain associated with a 2012-2013 outbreak, also due to contaminated Foster Farms brand chicken.
Complicating the CDC’s investigation of the outbreak is the government shutdown, which has furloughed much of the public health staff at the CDC, the FDA, and the USDA.
Investigators have identified Foster Farms brand chicken products as the source of the Salmonella, but they have not identified which specific product is contaminated. Because of this, the government is unable to issue a recall, but has issued a public health alert, which you can read here: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/newsroom/news-releases-statements-and-transcripts/news-release-archives-by-year/archive/2013/pha-100713
Who & Where: A total of 278 people have become sick in 17 states: Alaska (2), Arkansas (1), Arizona (11), California (213), Colorado (4), Connecticut (1), Florida (1), Hawaii (1), Idaho (2), Michigan (2), North Carolina (1), Nevada (8), Oregon (8), Texas (5), Utah (2), Washington (15), and Wisconsin (1). Cases have also been reported in Illinois, Massachusetts and possibly other states, although these remain unconfirmed by the CDC. Those sickened range in age from less than a year old to 93 years old, while the median age is 20. Most illnesses (77%) are reported from California, and no deaths have been reported nationwide. Of those sickened nationwide, 42% have been hospitalized—almost twice the percentage that are typically hospitalized during a Salmonella outbreak, and 13% of cases have invasive infections. Due to the multidrug-resistant nature of the outbreak, a larger than usual number of victims will experience treatment failure, increasing the likelihood of hospitalization and severe health consequences due to the infection.
For Consumers: Because no specific product has been identified as the source of illness, consumers should treat all Foster Farms chicken products as potentially contaminated. If you have a Foster Farms product, we recommend that you return it to the store for a refund. If you have an opened product in your kitchen, we recommend that you throw it out.
As is the case with all raw poultry, we recommend that consumers take care to minimize cross contamination of other foods and kitchen surfaces when preparing or handling raw poultry. Cooking poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F will kill all bacteria—even antibiotic-resistant bacteria—but the risk of cross contamination is especially serious when the bacteria in question may be antibiotic resistant.
CDC Investigation: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/index.html
CDC Cases Map: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/map.html