A salmonella outbreak derived from an unknown food source has spread to four more states and the number of new infections reported to public health officials has more than doubled.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in its latest case count that, as of Sept. 23, at least 279 people had become ill from the oranienburg strain of salmonella, resulting in 26 hospitalizations. A week earlier, the agency reported in an advisory posted on Sept. 17 that it had identified 127 people in 25 states infected with salmonella. No deaths have been attributed to the life-threatening bacteria.
The outbreak has spread to 29 states, with the majority of cases reported in Texas (81), followed by Oklahoma (40), Illinois (23) and Virginia (22). Other states affected by the outbreak include Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Connecticut, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Kansas, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina and from the South. Nebraska, Utah, Oregon, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Tennessee.
The CDC said it believes the actual number of infections may be much higher than reported because many people recover from a salmonella infection without seeking medical attention and are not tested for the bacteria.
The agency also said it takes three to four weeks to conclude if a sick person is part of an outbreak, so some recent illnesses may not yet have been reported.
Public health officials have yet to determine the exact cause of the infections and are continuing to interview people about the foods they ate in the week before their first symptoms. However, they appear to be closing in on a possible source, based on the latest update to their research.. The CDC reported that the salmonella oranienburg strain was found in a sample taken from a take-out seasoning cup containing coriander and lime. The sick person reported that the condiment container also contained onions, but none were left in the cup when it was tasted.
“Because there were multiple foods in the container and in the sample that was tested, it is not possible to know which food was contaminated,” the CDC said in a statement. “We are using this information in conjunction with other available information to help narrow down the list of potential food-related illnesses.”
Some groups of people who ate at the same restaurant before their illness have been identified in various states, which can help identify common foods they ate.
The ages of the patients range from less than 1 to 89 years and 59% are women.
The CDC encourages people with salmonella symptoms to contact their healthcare provider and report any illnesses to the health department.
The CDC is investigating the cause of a mysterious salmonella outbreak in 25 states that affected more than 100 people.
Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit, stomach cramps, excessive vomiting, and signs of dehydration. In most cases, people recover without medical attention after four to seven days. Some severe cases require hospitalization.
To avoid getting sick from salmonella, the CDC recommends four safety measures when preparing food: washing hands, utensils, and surfaces, separating raw foods, using a food thermometer, and refrigerating perishable items within two hours.
Each year, salmonella causes about 1.35 million illnesses, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the United States, according to the CDC.