According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of October 17, 2013, a total of 338 individuals from 20 states and Puerto Rico have been infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg linked to Foster Farm’s Chicken. Forty percent of those infected have been hospitalized, with approximately 75 percent of the victims residing in California. Nine ill persons have been identified in Texas. Salmonella Heidelberg is the country’s third most common strain of Salmonella, which can result in foodborne illness if not destroyed by proper cooking and safe handling. Notably, this is not the first time in recent months that the CDC has reported an outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg. In July 2013, the CDC reported that 134 individuals had been infected with the same strain also linked to Foster Farm’s chicken.
Earlier this month, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) issued a public health alert due to concerns that illness caused by Salmonella Heidelberg was associated with chicken products produced at three Foster Farm’s facilities in California. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) thereafter threatened to shut down these facilities, citing a risk to public health. While Foster Farms has not initiated a recall, the company is complying with the USDA’s requests to mitigate issues at the facilities tied to the outbreak. The investigation by the USDA-FSIS is ongoing.
How to know if you’ve been infected
The symptoms of the illness caused by Salmonella include high fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramping. While most of all persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps (usually within 12 to 72 hours after infection) that require little medical treatment, if any, some elderly individuals, infants, and those with impaired immune systems can suffer severe illnesses or death. The outbreak strains involved in these cases are resistant to several commonly described antibiotics, which means there may be an increased risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure in infected individuals.