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Raw Turkey Responsible for Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Outbreak Spanning 26 States

JUL 19, 2018 | MICHAELA FLEMING
Updated: 11/15/2018 at 12:00 PM EST

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced an investigation into a multidrug-resistant Salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey products.

This is the fourth Salmonella multistate outbreak reported so far this summer with previous outbreaks linked to Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and pre-cut melon announced in June, and a Spring pasta salad outbreak announced earlier this week.

As of November 8, 2018, 164 cases of Salmonella Reading have been reported across 35 states. Sixty-three of the 164 individuals have required hospitalization for their illnesses and 1 death been reported in California.

Those who are ill range in age from less than 1 to 91 years with a median age of 45; available data indicate that 56% of these individuals are female. The reported cases have illness onset dates ranging from November 20, 2017 to October 20, 2018.

As part of the investigation, health officials conducted interviews with 85  individuals who had fallen ill. The investigators found that 44 of the 85 interviewed individuals (52%) reported preparing or eating turkey products that were purchased raw—including ground turkey, turkey pieces, and whole turkeys. Additionally, 3 individuals reported that they fell ill after pets in their home consumed raw ground turkey pet food. Only 3 of the 85 individuals reported working in a facility that raises or processes turkeys or lived with someone who did.

Early epidemiological evidence has not indicated a common source of the contamination and ill individuals reported eating different types of products purchased at a variety of locations. The strain of Salmonella Reading has been identified by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) in samples collected from 22 slaughter facilities, 7 processing facilities, and from live turkeys. Whole genome sequencing showed that the strain identified in the samples and in the ill individuals are closely related, providing further evidence of a common source of infection.

The CDC reports that a total of 68 isolates from ill individuals and 84 isolates from the samples collected at the facilities and from animals contained genes for resistance to some or all of the following antibiotics: ampicillin, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, gentamicin, and kanamycin. These antibiotics are not typically used to treat Salmonella infections, so resistance is not likely to affect the antibiotic choice of the health care provider.

Because this strain has been identified in live turkeys and in raw turkey products, it is possible that this is a widespread issue in what the CDC refers to as the turkey community. The CDC and USDA-FSIS have met with representatives from the community to attempt to reduce Salmonella contamination in live turkeys and in raw turkey products.

Symptoms of Salmonella include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps which typically develop 12 to 72 hours following exposure to the bacteria. Health care providers living in areas affected by the outbreak should be cognizant of these symptoms and consider Salmonella as a potential diagnosis if a patient presents with them.

The investigation is ongoing, but the CDC will provide updates as more information becomes available.

For the most recent case counts associated with the multistate Salmonella Reading Outbreak tied to Raw Turkey Products, check out the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor.
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