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Salmonella outbreak linked to death in California

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The outbreak has spread to 26 states and affected at least 77 people
  • The cases were reported between March 1 and August 1
  • Health officials have identified ground turkey as the likely culprit
  • Symptoms are diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps

(CNN) -- A multistate outbreak of salmonella poisoning blamed for scores of illnesses that may be linked to eating ground turkey has resulted in a death, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health said Tuesday.

The fatality occurred in the Sacramento area, said the spokesman, Mike Sicilia. Another five Californians have been sickened, he said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that a total of 77 cases in 26 states had been reported between March 1 and August 1 as being infected with the bacteria, called Salmonella Heidelberg.

The outbreak strain is resistant to many antibiotics, a fact that can increase the risk that patients will be hospitalized and that treatment will fail.

The states where illnesses have been reported are Alabama (1); Arizona (2); California (6); Georgia (1); Iowa (1); Illinois (7); Indiana (1); Kentucky (2); Louisiana (1); Massachusetts (1); Michigan (10); Minnesota (1); Missouri (2); Mississippi (1); North Carolina (1); Nebraska (2); Nevada (1); New York (2); Ohio (10); Oklahoma (1); Oregon (1); Pennsylvania (5); South Dakota (3); Tennessee (2); Texas (9); and Wisconsin (3).

The illness has struck people from infants to age 88, with a median age of 23, the CDC said in a news release. Of the 58 people who became ill and for whom information is available, more than a third (38%) were hospitalized.

Evidence points to ground turkey as the likely source of the outbreak, the CDC said. "Among the 51 ill persons with available information, 25 (49%) reported consuming ground turkey," it said. "This proportion is significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy persons in which 11% of persons of reported consuming ground turkey in the seven days before they were interviewed."

Investigators studying cultures of ground turkey samples bought from four retailers between March 7 and June 27 found the outbreak strain, CDC said. Three of the products appear to have originated from the same producer; the fourth remains under investigation, it said.

But they have not been linked to illnesses, it added.

A spokesman for the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association did not immediately return a call.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service released a public health alert for frozen or fresh ground turkey products that underscored the importance of following cooking instructions and general food safety practices when preparing any raw meat or poultry.

It recommends meat be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 Celsius).

Infection with the bacteria can cause people to develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection.

The sickness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.

But severe diarrhea can require hospitalization and, if the infection spreads from the intestines to the bloodstream and then elsewhere in the body, the bacteria can prove fatal, according to public health experts.

The aged, infants and people with impaired immune systems tend to be at highest risk.

CNN's Amanda Watts contributed to this story.