The coronavirus pandemic is still raging on, months after the outbreak began and there seems to be no end in sight. Some thought back in March that the virus would go away or at least slow down during the summer months but that hasn’t been the case.
In fact, depending on which part of the country you live in things are worse now than ever. Thankfully, there is now a real-time COVID map that will tell you just how risky it is for you to venture out in your area. Tap or click here to find out the risks.
The last thing we need to add to our plates is another health risk spreading throughout the county. Well, that’s exactly where we are at with a new mysterious salmonella outbreak that scientists are having trouble pinpointing its origin. It’s 2020, did you expect anything different?
Mysterious Salmonella outbreak spreading fast
A new outbreak of the salmonella strain — known as Salmonella Newport — was identified by the CDC on July 10, and over the last few weeks, the total number of cases included in the outbreak have been growing. What initially started as 13 Salmonella Newport infections in three states has rapidly grown to hundreds of infections in nearly half the states in the U.S.
As of the July 24 update by the CDC, a total of 212 infected people had been identified across 23 states. About 31 people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.
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While the current outbreak has been growing no specific food item, grocery store, or restaurant chain has been pinpointed as the source of the infections.
According to the CDC, the illnesses associated with the current outbreak started on dates ranging from June 19, 2020, to July 11, 2020. Ages of people infected with this current outbreak range from 0 to 92 years, with a median age of 40, and about 54% of people who are ill are female.
How the CDC is using technology to track and address the outbreak
The CDC is currently using an innovative tech resource known as CDCPulseNet to try and figure out the source of the outbreak and how to treat it. This is a national laboratory network that connects foodborne illness cases to detect outbreaks to gather more information and pinpoint the source of infections.
The CDC’s PulseNet is a unique resource because it uses DNA fingerprints of bacteria from patients to find clusters of disease that might represent unrecognized outbreaks. By identifying ongoing foodborne outbreaks, health officials can stop an outbreak, and industry and regulatory agencies can make changes to improve food and water safety.
DNA fingerprints from the bacteria are used to find clusters of disease that might represent unrecognized outbreaks. When health officials are able to identify ongoing foodborne outbreaks like the one we are currently dealing with, health officials can take steps to stop the outbreak — and industry and regulatory agencies can make changes to improve food and water safety.
Information that is used for DNA fingerprinting comes from participating public health laboratories in all 50 states — including the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico — as well as food regulatory laboratories within the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The CDC has already begun the whole genome sequencing for this current outbreak, and the analysis of 48 isolates from ill people did not predict any antibiotic resistance with this strain of salmonella.
Standard antibiotic susceptibility testing by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory is also currently underway.
How to report symptoms of Salmonella or another foodborne illness
It’s important to report any symptoms or confirmed cases of foodborne illnesses to your doctor and your local health department so that the CDC can continue to gather the scientific evidence it needs to stop the outbreak.
If you receive a call from your health department, you should be prepared to answer questions about your illness and the foods you ate before you got sick.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection include:
- Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps six hours to six days after being exposed to the bacteria.
- The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.
- In some people, the illness may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body.
- Children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.
- For more information, see Symptoms of Salmonella Infection.
Per the CDC, you should take the following actions if you have symptoms of an Salmonella infection:
- Talk to your healthcare provider.
- Write down what you ate in the week before you started to get sick.
- Report your illness to your local health department.
- The health department will likely call you for an interview to ask you about the foods you ate in the week before you got sick.
- Assist public health investigators by answering their questions when they contact you. This information could help identify the source of the outbreak and prevent other people from getting sick.
State and local public health officials are currently interviewing ill people to determine what they ate and other exposures in the week before their illness started. The CDC is encouraging people to participate who have had Salmonella illness in recent weeks to participate in these interviews.
This information is vital because public health officials will use it to identify the source of the outbreak and also take steps to prevent additional illnesses from occurring.
The CDC also advises consumers to follow these four steps to help prevent Salmonella infection:
- Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often, and wash fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting, or peeling.
- Separate: Keep food that won’t be cooked before it is eaten, such as fresh fruit, salads, and deli meats, away from raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Cook: To a temperature high enough to kill germs’ external icon.
- Chill: Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours; one hour if it’s 90°F or hotter outside.
More information is available on the CDC Food Safety website. For more information, visit the CDC page with information on the current outbreak.