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Deadly 26 State Outbreak of Resistant Salmonella Linked to Ground Turkey

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Yesterday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a public health alert pertaining to an outbreak of Salmonella linked to ground turkey. The alert is particularly serious as the bacterial strain involved, Salmonella Heidleberg, is antibiotic resistant. So far, there are reports of 77 cases, including one death, in 26 states. The fatality was in Sacramento County, California.

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“Among persons for whom information is available, illnesses began on or after March 9, 2011. Ill persons range in age from less than 1 year to 88 years old, with a median age of 23 years old. Forty-eight percent are female. Among the 58 ill persons with available information, 22 (38%) have been hospitalized.”

According to the CDC, most persons infected with Salmonella bacteria develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment. However, in some persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. Older adults, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.

The CDC alert follows an earlier health alert announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Both the CDC and the FSIS recommend that consumers, retailers and others be particularly scrupulous about safety measures and recommend the following precautions:

  • Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry including frozen, fresh ground turkey. Then, disinfect the food contact surfaces using a freshly prepared solution of 1 tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water.
  • Cook poultry thoroughly. Ground turkey and ground turkey dishes should always be cooked to 165 °F internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer; leftovers also should be reheated to 165 °F. The color of cooked poultry is not always a sure sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F throughout the product. Turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink. Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, older adults, and persons with impaired immune systems. For more information, please see this FSIS fact sheet about safe food handling.External Web Site Icon
  • If served undercooked poultry in a restaurant, send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.
  • Cross-contamination of foods should be avoided. Uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods. Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives, and other utensils should be washed thoroughly after touching uncooked foods. Hands should be washed before handling food, and between handling different food items.
  • Refrigerate raw and cooked meat and poultry within 2 hours after purchase (one hour if temperatures exceed 90° F). Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking. Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40 °F or below.
  • Persons who think they might have become ill from eating possibly contaminated ground turkey should consult their health care providers. Infants, older adults, and persons with impaired immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness.