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Three more North Carolina residents test positive for Salmonella in national outbreak investigation; includes one N.C. death

Este pagina en espanolRelease Date: January 16, 2009
Contact: Carol Schriber, 919-733-9190

RALEIGH – Three more North Carolinians – one each from Brunswick, Caldwell and Catawba counties – have tested positive for the same strain of Salmonella typhimurium that has sickened more than 400 people nationwide, bringing North Carolina’s total to four cases, public health officials reported today. The Catawba County resident died in November due to a blood infection caused by Salmonella. The other cases have recovered. The state’s first identified case, in a person from Robeson County, was reported last Friday.

It takes several weeks to determine which Salmonella cases belong to an outbreak, since a series of successive laboratory tests must be completed to determine the molecular “fingerprint” of the bacteria that shows the cases are likely due to a common source of infection. The CDC identified the outbreak strain on Dec. 31, 2008. State Public Health officials have been looking for possible N.C. cases since then.  

Investigation into possible sources of the illness by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state and local public health officials indicates that a likely source of the bacteria causing the infections is peanut butter sold in large containers to institutions, food service industries and private-label food companies across the country, but not directly to consumers. Several companies have now issued voluntary recalls on peanut butter. In addition, other companies have stopped the sale and distribution of products containing peanut butter, such as peanut butter crackers. Grocery-store brands of peanut butter have not been implicated in the outbreak.

Officials are continuing to investigate, and are examining exposures to peanut butter and products containing peanut butter that may be associated with illness.

The CDC reported on January 14 that at least 453 people infected with Salmonella typhimurium with the same genetic fingerprint – indicating a common infection source – had been reported in 43 states, with 5 deaths. North Carolina’s cases will be added to those totals when the CDC publishes its outbreak update on Jan. 16.

State health officials are continuing to investigate the North Carolina case, and are looking at laboratory test results for other potential cases linked to this outbreak.

Nationally, most of the reported illnesses began between Sept. 3 and Dec. 31, 2008. Illnesses that occurred after mid-December may not yet be reported; there is a time lag of 2-3 weeks between when a person becomes ill, and when lab tests are completed and the illness is reported. According to the CDC, hospitalizations occurred in about 28 percent of the cases for which they have that information.

Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. The illness usually lasts four to seven days. Although most people recover without treatment, severe infections may occur, particularly in young children, frail or elderly people and those with weakened immune systems. People who experience gastrointentinal illness should contact their health care provider or local health department, public health officials said.

For the latest updates on the national outbreak or for information about Salmonella, see the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov. For information on product recalls, see the FDA website at www.fda.gov.