While we're all in the midst of preparing for the Thanksgiving festivities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sounding alarm about a fatal salmonella outbreak linked to raw turkey meat.
The agency has confirmed that the widespread outbreak has sickened 164 people in 35 states over the last few months after they came in contact with raw turkey products purchased from a variety of sources.
So far, 63 people have been hospitalized, and one death has been tied to the infection in California.
Illinois and Minnesota have seen the most cases since the outbreak started last November. The most recent case was reported on October 20.
"We are still seeing new illnesses being reported on a weekly basis," said Colin Basler, an epidemiologist with the CDC.
The infections have been caused by a rare strain of the salmonella bacteria which has been found in live turkeys, ground turkey, turkey patties, and raw turkey pet food.
At this time, the CDC hasn't been able to identify a supplier that's connected to the outbreak, but they're asking people not to panic.
According to the agency, there is no need to skip turkey at Thanksgiving this year. Just make sure to properly handle and cook the meat to avoid contracting any food-borne illnesses.
It is recommended that you cook turkey to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to eliminate bacteria. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meat, and use warm soapy water to clean all surfaces that have touched the uncooked poultry.
Salmonella's symptoms usually start 12 to 72 hours after a person gets exposed to 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 up to a week, but diarrhea may persist and become a cause for hospitalization.
Here are more tips to keep in mind to prevent a food-borne illness:
- Don't thaw turkey by leaving it out on the counter. Use the microwave to defrost the meat or immerse in cold water and leave it in the fridge. Just remember to change the water every 30 minutes.
- Don't wash raw meat before cooking so you can minimize the spread of germs to other surfaces.
- Use separate cutting boards for meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables.
- When reheating leftovers, make sure they're also heated to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- CDC urges people to avoid feeding cats and dogs raw meat so they don't become sick.
- If you're raising turkeys or chickens, CDC says avoid cuddling and dressing them up so you don't end up being exposed to harmful bacteria.