The last few months have been tough for the meat industry with recalls taking place every few weeks.
Earlier this month, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a recall for more than 6.5 million pounds of meat due to a nationwide salmonella outbreak. This announcement came on the heels of another massive recall linked to a deadly E. Coli outbreak.
Now, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is sending out a separate warning after people in multiple states became infected with a special strain of salmonella.
According to the announcement, at least 92 people across 29 states have reported illness after coming into contact with some form of raw chicken. While no deaths have occurred, 21 people have been hospitalized so far.
The CDC has been investigating the outbreak since it started in January, and the number of infections have steadily increased since. Those who have been affected live in California, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Washington, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama.
Lab tests haven't been able to successfully trace the source of the tainted chicken, so the organization cannot release any supplier names or product information at the moment.
What we do know is that this particular strain has been found in raw chicken products, including whole and ground chicken, and even pet food. Tests also concluded that the bacteria is present in live chicken.
Salmonella's symptoms usually start 12 to 72 hours after a person comes into contact with the dangerous bacteria, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Diarrhea, cramps, fever that spans several days, nausea, stomach pain, bloody stools, chills, headache, and vomiting are all characteristics of the food-borne illness. Symptoms usually last for up to a week, but diarrhea may persist and become a cause for hospitalization.
Antibiotics are the most common type of treatment, but doctors are now facing a challenge because this strain of Salmonella Infantis has been resistant to multiple antibiotics.
Both the CDC and the USDA are monitoring the outbreak and will provide more information as they become available.
In the meantime, here are a few tips to keep in mind so you can avoid contracting a food-borne illness:
- Always wash your hands when handling any raw meat, including poultry.
- Don't wash chicken before cooking so you can minimize the spread of germs to other surfaces.
- Use separate cutting boards for meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables.
- Immediately wipe down all surfaces that come into contact with raw meat.
- Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat you're cooking. Make sure it reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit in order to eliminate bacteria.
- CDC urges people to avoid feeding cats and dogs raw meat so they don't become sick.
- If you're raising chickens, CDC says avoid cuddling and dressing them up so you don't end up being exposed to harmful bacteria.