RAW: Salmonella outbreak originated at California chicken facilities, sickens hundreds

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a public health alert due to concerns that illness caused by strains of a bacteria known as salmonella are associated with raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California, according to a news release. The strain of salmonella has proved to be unusually resistant to treatment with antibiotics, according to the news release.

"The products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon, and Washington State. Raw products in question bear one of the establishment numbers inside a USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the package:
• P6137
• P6137A
• P7632

"As of Oct. 7, a total of 278 persons infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 17 states. Forty-two percent of ill persons have been hospitalized, which is about twice the expected number with salmonella infections.

"The outbreak strains are resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. This antibiotic resistance may be associated with an increased risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure in infected individuals.

"No deaths have been reported thus far. Seventy-seven percent of ill persons have been reported from California, as shown on the following page.

"The outbreak is continuing, and Foster Farms is collaborating with federal and state scientists in the investigation. USDA personnel have continued to work during the federal government shutdown, and 7-8 CDC employees have been called back in to help monitor the situation. Additional actions may be taken based on any new evidence that is discovered.

"If you think you may have become ill:
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. Children younger than 5 years, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.

"Contact your healthcare provider if you think you may have become ill from eating contaminated food.

"Advice to consumers: While it is not unusual for raw poultry from any producer to have Salmonella bacteria, it is uncommon to have multidrug-resistant Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella is known to contaminate poultry flocks in the USA. It is naturally occurring in poultry and can be fully eradicated if raw product is properly handled and fully cooked."