Salmonella Outbreak: Do You Pay Attention to Food Safety?

Five people in Illinois have been identified by the CDC with a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella infantis (along with more than 85 others in 29 states). Eating or preparing chicken purchased raw (including ground, pieces and whole chicken) has been blamed. CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health officials are actively monitoring the outbreak. Here’s what you need to know.

What is salmonella and what are the symptoms?

Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause an infected individual to have diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever between 12 and 72 hours following infection for up to seven days. While most people will recover without additional treatment, some cases are severe and require hospitalization. In these instances, salmonella can spread from the intestines to the blood and throughout the body. Without antibiotics, the infection can lead to death. The infection is most likely to severely impact persons with impaired immune systems, the elderly and infants.

“Anyone who suspects they may have salmonella food poisoning should contact their physician immediately,” said Raj Govindaiah, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Memorial Health System. “Salmonella poisoning can be unpleasant in mild cases and potentially fatal if untreated.”

How do you prevent salmonella?

The CDC offers food safety guidelines when handling raw chicken. Follow their recommended steps to help prevent salmonella:

  • Wash your hands. Wash hands before and after preparing or eating food, after contact with animals, and after using the restroom or changing diapers. Salmonella infections can spread from one person to another if hands have salmonella germs on them.
  • Cook raw chicken thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Chicken should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill harmful germs. Leftovers should be reheated to 165°F. Use a food thermometer to check and place it in the thickest part of the food.
  • Don’t spread germs from raw chicken around food preparation areas. Don’t wash raw poultry before cooking; germs can splash around your kitchen. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with warm, soapy water after they touch raw chicken. Use a separate cutting board for raw chicken and other raw meats if possible.
  • CDC does not recommend feeding raw food to pets. Germs like salmonella in raw pet food can make your pets sick. Your family also can get sick by handling the raw food or cleaning up after your pet.

If you suspect you have a severe case of food poisoning, contact your primary care provider or visit your nearest emergency room.

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