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Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Linked to Raw Tuna in Sushi

May 26, 2015

The Food and Drug Administration in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and various state and local officials are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Paratyphi B variant L(+) tartrate(+) infections, possibly linked to sushi made from raw tuna.

The FDA said it is moving quickly to investigate to prevent more people from becoming ill. The agency said it “recognize[s] that people will be concerned about these illnesses, and we will continue to provide updates and advice.”

The CDC reports that 53 illnesses from this particular strain have been reported in nine states: Arizona (10), California (31), Illinois (1), Mississippi (1), New Mexico (6), South Dakota (1), Virginia (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (1). Ten people (22%) have been hospitalized, but, to date, no deaths have been reported. The FDA has not conclusively identified a food source, but most ill people interviewed reported eating sushi containing raw tuna in the week before becoming ill. A common brand or supplier of raw tuna has not yet been identified.

Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. Most people infected develop symptoms between 12 and 72 hours after infection. In some people, diarrhea may severe enough to require hospitalization. In some patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person receives antibiotic treatment.

Health officials are continuing to interview patients, and the FDA is increasing its monitoring of tuna. In addition, the FDA is conducting a trace back investigation: evaluating and analyzing records to determine whether there is a common source of tuna. The FDA, with its investigational partners, is trying to trace the path of the tainted food back to a common source. This is painstaking work, the FDA explains, requiring the collection, review and analysis of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of invoices and shipping documents. If a specific food or source linked to the illnesses is identified, the FDA will work to remove it from the marketplace and alert consumers to avoid it.

Children under five are especially likely to get salmonellosis. They are diagnosed at a rate higher than the rate in all other people. Very young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop severe infections. Approximately 400 people in the U.S. die annually from acute salmonellosis. The FDA advises those at greatest risk to avoid eating raw fish of any kind.

People who think they might have become ill from eating possibly contaminated raw tuna should contact a doctor. Anyone who has had diarrhea that lasts for more than three days, or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or severe vomiting should contact a health care provider.

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