The Shutdown Could Make This Serious Salmonella Outbreak Even Worse

<p><a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-103344665/stock-photo-raw-chicken-legs-on-a-white-background.html" target="_blank">de2marco</a>/shutterstock</p>

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Update: On Tuesday, the CDC recalled some of its furloughed employees to work on the salmonella outbreak. It also discovered that the strain of salmonella seems to be antibiotic resistant. Tom Philpott has the full story here.

Over at Wired, Maryn McKenna reports on a major outbreak of the foodborne illness salmonella. So far, 278 people in 18 states have been sickened with the pathogen, which causes fever, cramps, diarrhea, and in severe cases, even death. In a press release the USDA identified the source of the outbreak as contaminated raw chicken from a producer called Foster Farms and said that the products were sold at supermarkets in Washington State, Oregon, and California. As of 11:30 AM EDT Tuesday, Foster Farms had a note up saying, “No recall is in effect. Products are safe to consume if properly handled and fully cooked.” Foster Farms’ chicken was linked to another salmonella outbreak—134 illnesses in 13 states—in July, the CDC reported.

Usually when there’s an outbreak of this scale, the CDC mobilizes to pinpoint the source of the contaminated food. However, McKenna explains that the shutdown “means that the lab work and molecular detection that can link far-apart cases and define the size and seriousness of outbreaks are not happening.” Individual states can use their own resources to trace the outbreak, but so far it looks like they won’t be able to use the federal government’s databases.

Of course, this is hardly the first recent outbreak of salmonella linked to poultry; Tom Philpott writes about how crowded conditions and overuse of antibiotics on farms make for perfect bacteria breeding grounds here. This CDC graphic shows the growing number of salmonella cases over the past two decades:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

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