CDC: 2 people have died, and 91 others have been hospitalized, due to an outbreak of salmonella spanning 31 states that's been linked to cucumbers grown in Mexico. A Texas woman who had serious underlying health issues is the most recent victim to be killed by the outbreak, which has been traced back to cucumbers distributed in California.
Two companies, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce and Custom Produce Sales, have voluntarily recalled cucumbers due to possible contamination.
The outbreak comes after another incident of salmonella-related food poisoning in July that left eight people ill and triggered a nationwide recall of 1.8 million pounds of raw, stuffed chicken products produced by Barber Foods in the U.S. and No Name brand in Canada.
Symptoms of salmonella poisoning, or salmonellosis, develop 12 to 72 hours after exposure and include: diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever
The symptoms can last four to seven days and resolve on their own with sufficient oral fluid intake, but very young or very old people, or those with weakened immune systems, can develop serious illness.
Severe diarrhea can require hospitalization.
According to the CDC, this type of bacteria, named after its discoverer, Dr. Daneil Elmer Salmon, is responsible for 1 million gastrointestinal illnesses each year in the U.S., with 19,000 hospitalizations and almost 400 deaths. Many cases may go unreported.
10 essential facts you need to know about salmonella and avoiding contamination:
1. Use thermometers. Always use a meat thermometer when cooking meat. The USDA requires raw products to be labeled as raw and to list the proper cooking temperature for safety, and most consumers won’t use thermometers. The target temperature for poultry is 165 Fahrenheit, which the USDA says should be checked at the center of the meat, at the thickest part.
2. Avoid cross-contamination. According to the CDC, prevention includes immediately washing any kitchen work surfaces and utensils that come in contact with raw meats with warm soap and water
3. Be aware of what could be exposed to salmonella. The bacteria live in the intestines of animals, so anything that could be exposed to intestinal contents can be at risk of salmonella contamination. Some outbreaks around the world have not involved meat at all but instead have been associated with plants, including peanuts, spices, and a fruit-based candy. Unpasteurized foods, including unpasteurized milk, are also a risk.
4. Pets can be a risk, and at risk. Because of the risk of contamination from exposure to fecal matter, pets like turtles, other reptiles, and baby chicks are particularly prone to being sources of salmonella infection. Chickens were the source of another recent U.S. outbreak. Dogs and cats can actually be infected, with sometimes-severe and long-lasting symptoms, and can pass infection to humans.
5. Also be aware of raw, stuffed chicken products. Several other salmonella outbreaks have been traced to chicken products like those in the current recall.
6. Know that freezing does not kill salmonella. Freezing does not kill the microbes, it just shuts them down temporarily. Once you warm the food up, they become activated again.
7. Know that microwaves may also activate salmonella. The heat in a microwave isn’t very well controlled. Within the food, microwaves just give very large differences in heat, which can mean uneven temperatures and places for the bacteria to persist.
8. Handwashing is an important preventive measure. Wash hands before and after handling raw meat, pets, or outdoor plants; after swimming; and before eating.