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Salmonella Toll Passes 1000

Jul 10, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP More than 1000 people are now known to have been sickened by a rare strain of Salmonella, and now health officials are warning those most vulnerable to the bacteria to avoid eating certain types of peppers. This Salmonella outbreak is the largest food poisoning outbreak of any kind in this country in a decade.

Though certain types of raw tomatoes are still prime suspects in the Salmonella St. Paul outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now says that jalapeno and Serrano peppers could also be implicated.  According to the CDC, many clusters of Salmonella have been reported among victims who ate at restaurants.   The CDC's investigation into three of those clusters revealed that in two, the victims reported eating a food containing fresh jalapeno peppers.  Interviewees in the third cluster reported eating an item that contained both fresh tomatoes and fresh jalapeno peppers.  In addition to jalapeno peppers and raw tomatoes, the CDC is also investigating fresh cilantro and fresh Serrano peppers.

Since mid-April, 1,017 Salmonella St. Paul infections have been reported in 41 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. So far, illnesses have been reported in Alabama (2 persons), Arkansas (14), Arizona (49), California (9), Colorado (13), Connecticut (4), Florida (2), Georgia (24), Idaho (4), Illinois (100), Indiana (14), Iowa (2), Kansas (17), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Maine (1), Maryland (29), Massachusetts (25), Michigan (8), Minnesota (15), Missouri (12), New Hampshire (4), Nevada (11), New Jersey (9), New Mexico (98), New York (28), North Carolina (10), Ohio (8), Oklahoma (24), Oregon (10), Pennsylvania (11), Rhode Island (3), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (8), Texas (384), Utah (2), Virginia (29), Vermont (2), Washington (11), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (11), and the District of Columbia (1). Four ill persons are reported from Canada; three appear to have been infected while traveling in the United States, and one illness remains under investigation.

According to the CDC, at least 203 victims were hospitalized.  Health officials also say that the death in a man in Texas in his eighties has been associated with this outbreak. In addition, the CDC says that Salmonella may have contributed to the death of  cancer patient in that state.

So far, the Food & Drug Administration has not changed its advice that consumers should avoid certain raw  red plum, red Roma, or round red tomatoes or any products containing them unless they are known to have come from a geographic area cleared of any connection to the outbreak.   While it has not issued any official warning on jalapeno and Serrano peppers, or cilantro, people most vulnerable to Salmonella - including the elderly, infants and people with weak immune systems- are being told to avoid these foods.  

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