The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) and health officials are investigating a nationwide
outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium. Over 400 cases have
been identified in 43 states. Early data suggests that peanut
butter distributed to institutional facilities (such as nursing
homes or hospitals) may be associated with these illnesses. In
addition, products that contain peanut butter, such as cookies,
candies, ice cream or crackers may be linked to the infection.
For a complete list of recalled products, visit the FDA's websites
Jars of peanut
butter sold in grocery stores have not been linked to these cases.
Here are some common questions about
Salmonella. For more information regarding the outbreak
Q. What is Salmonella?
A. Salmonella is a bacterium
that can cause diarrheal illness in humans. The organism lives in
the intestinal tract of infected humans and animals. Salmonella
infection can be contracted from touching and handling raw animal
products or contaminated surfaces and not washing ones hands. It can
also be contracted by ingesting contaminated foods. According to the
CDC, over 40,000 cases of Salmonella are reported in the
United States every year.
Q. What are the symptoms of Salmonella
A. Most people experience diarrhea,
abdominal cramps, abdominal pain, fever and chills within 8 to 72
hours after the bacteria was ingested. Additional symptoms may be
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.
Q. Is Salmonella infection
A. Usually not; most people recover
naturally without treatment. However, Salmonella infections
may be serious and even require hospitalization for certain
high-risk individuals including infants, young children,
immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women-their unborn babies,
and older adults.
How do people get infected with Salmonella?
A. Salmonella is usually transmitted to humans by eating
foods contaminated with the bacteria. Salmonella present on
raw meat and poultry can survive if the product is not cooked to the
proper temperature. Salmonella can also cause illness
through cross-contamination. An example is when juices from raw meat
or poultry come in contact with ready-to-eat foods. Food may also
become contaminated by the unwashed hands of an infected food
handler. Salmonella can also be found in the feces of some
pets, especially those with diarrhea. People can become infected if
they do not wash their hands after contact with these feces.
Reptiles are particularly likely to harbor Salmonella on
their skins. People should always wash their hands immediately after
handling a reptile, even if the reptile appears healthy.
Q. What foods are most likely to make
people sick with Salmonella?
A. Any raw food of animal origin, such as meat, poultry, dairy
products, eggs, seafood, and some fruits and vegetables may carry
Salmonella bacteria. The bacteria can survive to cause illness
if the meat, poultry, and egg products are not cooked to a safe
temperature and if fruits and vegetables are not thoroughly washed.
Also, improperly processed commercial foods, i.e. peanut butter, can
transmit the bacteria if they become contaminated. Safe food
handling practices are necessary to prevent bacteria on raw foods
from causing illness.
Q. How is Salmonella infection
A. There are several different
illnesses that can cause diarrhea, fever, or abdominal cramps.
Laboratory testing of an infected personís stool is the only way to
tell if the illness is caused by the Salmonella bacteria.
Q. How can consumers prevent
A. Follow these guidelines for to
Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with
soap and warm water
- Before preparing food
- After handling raw foods
- After handling animals (especially
turtles, iguanas, & chickens)
- After using the restroom
- After changing diapers
Prepare foods safely
- Cook foods to proper temperatures
- Do not eat foods containing raw eggs or
- Donít cross-contaminate. Keep raw
meats and their juices away from fresh, ready-to-eat foods. Use
separate cutting boards and utensils for meats and produce
- Refrigerate leftovers promptly
- Thaw foods in the refrigerator,
microwave, or in cold waterónot on the counter
- Clean kitchen surfaces after they
have been in contact with raw foods