Salmonella outbreak linked to cucumbers still making people sick

Posted at 6:50 PM, Nov 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-19 18:50:58-05

A salmonella outbreak linked to imported cucumbers has sickened 838 people in 38 states, according to the CDC. That’s 71 more people than the number who were ill when the agency last issued an update about this outbreak just over a month ago. And 165 of those ill have been hospitalized. Four people have died.

“The number of reported illnesses has declined substantially since the peak of illnesses in August and September; however, it has not returned to the number of reported illnesses that we would expect to see (about five every month),” said the CDC’s outbreak update issued on Thursday.

Because there is a delay in linking illnesses to an outbreak, illnesses that have occurred since October 21 may not yet be linked to the outbreak and therefore, the number of cases could continue to rise, according to the CDC. It takes an average of two to four weeks to confirm a sick person is indeed part of an outbreak. The confirmed illnesses began on July 3 and the most recent case started on November 1.

Age is not a factor in this outbreak. The youngest person reporting illness is less than 1 and the oldest is 99. Half of those infected are younger than 18.

Connecticut and New Hampshire are new to the list of states reporting cases linked to this outbreak.

The CDC, FDA and state health officials are continuing to investigate this outbreak, which was first announced on September 4. Two separate recalls of cucumbers imported from Mexico were issued in September.

Previously, the advice was to discard any of these cucumbers and not to use them or consume them. Because so much time has passed, it is now unlikely any home or restaurant has these cucumbers, but if they do, the cucumbers should be thrown away. Additionally, the CDC advises consumers, retailers and restaurants to wash and sanitize shelves, refrigerator drawers, crates or containers where contaminated cucumbers may have been stored to avoid cross contamination.

Symptoms of salmonella illness include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps that begin 12 to 72 hours after a person is infected. Most people recover in four to seven days.