Monday, January 26, 2009

National Food Poisoning Death Toll At Seven

Salmonella is to blame.
A seventh death was linked Friday to a nationwide outbreak of salmonella associated with tainted peanut butter and paste sourced to the Peanut Corp. of America's plant in Blakely, Ga., authorities confirmed.

Although their exact causes of death have not been determined, all seven people have died after being infected with the bacterial strain Salmonella Typhimurium, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its Web site.
Actually, it's Salmonella typhimurium (note capitalization/italicization), but who's counting?

At any rate, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) agency has a FAQ sheet on salmonellosis. Here is a sample from the FAQ.
Q. What are the symptoms of salmonellosis?
A. Most people experience diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 8 to 72 hours after the contaminated food was eaten. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms usually disappear within 4 to 7 days. Many people with salmonellosis recover without treatment and may never see a doctor. However, Salmonella infections can be life-threatening especially for infants and young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and older adults, who are at a higher risk for foodborne illness, as are people with weakened immune systems (such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and transplant patients).
As you can see, it can be a nasty bug, especially those who do not have a strong immune system.

The FDA also has Salmonella listed in their "Bad Bug Book". According to the chapter on Salmonella, the infectious dose is only about 15 to 20 cells, so this is a very contagious organism.

Unfortunately, with this case in particular, give its ubiquitous nature (found in a variety of non-cook ready-to-eat food items) it's very hard to suggest a method to ensure that if you eat some of this food, what you can do to avoid getting sick. In this case, just avoid these items for the foreseeable future.

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