The Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local health 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 “recognize[s] that people will be concerned about these illnesses,” and is moving as quickly as possible in its investigation to prevent additional illnesses.
The CDC says there have been 53 illnesses reported in nine states from this particular strain: 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 no deaths have been reported to date. Most ill people interviewed by health officials have 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.
According to the FDA, 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. The symptoms usually develop between 12 and 72 hours after infection. For some people, the diarrhea may severe enough to require hospitalization and 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 receive antibiotic treatment
The FDA is increasing its monitoring of tuna, and in addition, the agency is evaluating and analyzing records in an effort 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.
According to the FDA, some people are at greater risk for the infection. Children under five are diagnosed at a rate higher than the rate for 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 in the highest risk groups 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. The FDA advises anyone who has had diarrhea for more than three days, or diarrhea accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or severe vomiting to contact a health care provider.