October 9, 2013 — An antibiotic-resistant outbreak of Salmonella food poisoning has sickened nearly 300 people in 18 states, and about 42% of people were hospitalized. The source of the outbreak has been traced to raw chicken products produced by three Foster Farms facilities in California, according to the USDA.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) normally monitors for multi-state outbreaks of food poisoning. Out of 9,000 furloughed employees, about 30 have been brought back to monitor food-borne disease outbreaks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has brought back one employee, a public affairs worker who put out a health alert yesterday.
The CDC investigation is hampered because the government shutdown has stopped PulseNet, which is a national network of public health laboratories that monitor for clusters of food-borne illness. CDC director Thomas Frieden said that not having PulseNet was “an imminent threat to health and safety.”
A CDC staffer reported to Wired:
“I know that we will not be conducting multi-state outbreak investigations. States may continue to find outbreaks, but we won’t be doing the cross-state consultation and laboratory work to link outbreaks that might cross state borders.”
There are over 2,300 types of Salmonella. At least 7 strains have been identified in the outbreak, which may explain why some people were hospitalized with severe illnesses while others did not become seriously ill. Although Salmonella is common, antibiotic-resistant infections can be deadly, especially for young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.
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