Hundreds have fallen ill in a outbreak tied to raw turkey, with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reporting more than 60 new cases in 24 states since its last report in December.
The number of illnesses linked to the outbreak that began in November of 2017 has ballooned to 279 total across 41 states and Washington, DC, the CDC said Friday. The agency also said a staggering 107 hospitalizations and one death in California have been tied to the outbreak.
More than half of individuals interviewed about their illnesses told investigating officials that they had handled raw turkey products before they became sick. In four instances, sickened individuals said that they had handled raw turkey pet food.
Jennie-O Turkey recalled more than 90,000 pounds of raw ground turkey in November, signalling the first non-pet food meat recall tied to the ongoing outbreak. A second Jennie-O Turkey ground turkey recall was issued in December. In both cases, the company cited possible contamination with the outbreak strain Salmonella Reading.
In addition, Raws for Paws and Woody’s Pet Food Deli, both of which are located in Minnesota, issued recalls for pet food with raw turkey in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Joel Brandenberger, President of the National Turkey Federation, said in December in response to the ongoing outbreak that the turkey industry was “dedicated to working with our partners in the federal government to aggressively tackle any food safety issues.”
“Since learning of illnesses linked to Salmonella Reading and raw turkey, the industry has come together to share information with each other and food safety officials about techniques and interventions on the farm and in the plant that are most effective in reducing harmful bacteria on products,” Brandenberger said in a statement at the time.
“Understanding this outbreak and controlling all serotypes of Salmonella, including Reading, is the top priority of our industry right now,” Brandenberger added. “Nothing is more important than the safety of the food we produce.”
According to the CDC, Salmonella causes stomach pain, diarrhea, and high temperatures in most people who are infected, usually within 12 to 72 hours. Symptoms may last anywhere between four days to a week, and while most people do not need to be treated, some may need to go to the hospital.
The CDC advises people to wash their hands when handling raw turkey of any kind and cook meats thoroughly to avoid falling ill.