Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella Outbreak Under Slow CDC Investigation

Antibiotic resistant salmonella

Those who love their chicken rare are in for a shock. Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak is breaking in 18 states -predominantly in California- with over 250 people falling ill and slow investigation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to the federal government shutdown.

Salmonella infections are usually difficult to treat because of the mutation that the bacterial species undergo constantly to resist antibiotics, harsh conditions and intestinal enzymes. Salmonella bacteria can survive outside the human body for weeks and is not destroyed by freezing. The only effective method of fighting Salmonella is extreme heating. That is why State health officials like Anita Gore, spokeswoman for the California Department of Public Health, are giving public awareness on the importance of thorough cooking of chicken before serving it. Salmonella is killed after cooking the chicken to 55 °C (131 °F) for 90 min, or to 60 °C (140 °F) for 12 min. Salmonella is one of the most antibiotic resistant bacteria out there.

The public health alert by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was issued for raw chicken packaged at three Foster Farms facilities in California, where the source of the illnesses has been reported. A series of epidemiologic tests and intensive sampling have been carried out to determine the exact source of the foodborne illness. The suspect packages used the codes: P6137, P6137A and P7632. No official recall has been made on products of the Foster Farms. The company spokesperson stated in a press release that they consider their products safe if well-cooked and when hygiene procedures are carried out properly.

Already 33 of the infected with Salmonella are hospitalized and in serious condition. A shocking 13% of the sickened population have the salmonella septicemia, a life-threatening condition where the Salmonella bacteria produces toxins that spread from the intestine to the blood stream. These toxins eventually trigger a severe immune response which results in whole-body inflammation. Salmonella infections can go to such extreme, scary measures in the immunocompromised population such as HIV patients, cancer patients, people undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, children and the elderly.

Common Salmonella Heidelberg symptoms include: diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever. These symptoms occur within eight hours to three days after eating the contaminated product. Chills, headache, nausea and vomiting can last up to a week and thus require further treatment. For risk of dehydration due to severe diarrhea, the Salmonella patient must be well-hydrated and might take oral rehydration solutions to compensate for lost fluids from the body. Antibiotics are taken to eradicate the remaining bacteria in the gut. The resistant strains are mostly resistant to ampicillin, chloramphenicol, tetracycline and streptomycin. Unfortunately, seven strains of those involved in the current outbreak are highly resistant to a wide array of antibiotics thus making the treatment of the patients more difficult and time consuming.

A lot of people -including health officials- are complaining that the shutdown is delaying research and containment of the current outbreak. The CDC is sending a call to 30 of its furloughed scientists -10 of which specifically work in the foodborne illnesses division-  to resume their work and collaborate to find a solution for the spreading Salmonella outbreak and also resolve the antibiotic resistance problem.
Written by: Jaylan Salah

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