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Officials seek source of salmonella outbreak

By Miriam Falco, CNN
updated 6:54 PM EDT, Wed April 4, 2012
Salmonella infections lead to diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.
Salmonella infections lead to diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CDC reports 93 people in 19 states and the District of Columbia have become ill
  • Investigators are looking for the source of the salmonella outbreak
  • Consumers are not being told to avoid any particular food or restaurants

Atlanta (CNN) -- Federal and state health officials are investigating a salmonella outbreak in 19 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reports 93 people in 19 states and the District of Columbia have been sickened by an unusual strain of the bacteria called salmonella Bareilly.

So far 10 people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported, according to health officials.

The first case of this particular food-borne illness was reported on January 28. The most recent case was reported Monday.

"CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of salmonella serotype Bareilly infections," CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell said in a statement.

News of the investigation surfaced late Tuesday when an internal memo was inadvertently sent to everyone at the FDA, according to FDA spokesman Curtis Allen. He says the memo speculates about a possible source of contamination -- sushi -- but he says the FDA doesn't know the origins of the outbreak at this time.

According to the CDC, state public health officials are interviewing those who became ill to find out what they may have eaten and been exposed to in the week before they got sick. This is how investigations into food-borne illnesses are typically conducted.

Russell said in "initial interviews, many of the ill persons reported consuming sushi, sashimi, or similar foods in a variety of locations in the week before becoming ill." However, it is still early in the investigation.

According to the CDC, consumers are not being told to avoid any particular food or restaurants. Once a particular food is identified for this outbreak, the public will be notified, according to a CDC statement.

Consumers are advised to contact their doctor if they believe they became ill from eating potentially contaminated food.

Salmonella infections lead to diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after someone is exposed to the bacteria, and the sickness can last from four to seven days, according to health officials. The oldest and youngest patients and those with a weakened immune system are the most likely to suffer severe complications from a salmonella infection.

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. have reported cases linked to this outbreak.

CDC officials say the investigation into the cause of the outbreak is ongoing and "if a specific food source is identified for this outbreak, public health officials will alert the public and take further steps to prevent additional illnesses."

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