In the last few years, we have all been assaulted by news of Salmonella outbreaks in our communities. These have not been isolated events, affecting hundreds of people of all ages in more than 40 states each time there has been an outbreak. As of this writing, we are in the midst of another widespread outbreak that has sickened almost 400 people across the country, hospitalized at least 67, though no deaths have been reported.
Several agencies led by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration are doing the scientific detective work to isolate the origin of this most recent outbreak. It is very difficult to trace the source of these infections as Salmonella in various strains are quite commonplace. Many small outbreaks probably go unreported. Each year there are around 400 deaths related to Salmonella infections. The infection can happen to anyone but the very young and the elderly are most vulnerable. Children under five years of age are five time more likely to get Salmonella infections. A lot of this is likely due to poor hygiene and food handling practices.
There are many simple and effective things you can do to prevent an outbreak in you or your family. The following CDC suggestions can be a big help for protection.
• Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly.
• Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs or unpasteurized (raw) milk.
• If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant: Send it back!
• Wash your hands, kitchen surfaces, and utensils immediately after contact with raw meat or poultry.
• Be particularly careful with food prep for infants, elderly, or the chronically ill who have lowered resistance.
• After contact with pets, especially reptiles, birds, or baby chicks, wash your hands!
• Infants or immunocompromised people should avoid any contact with reptiles, birds, or baby chicks.
• Don’t work with raw poultry or meat at the same time as handling or feeding an infant.
• For newborns and infants, breastfeeding can prevent Salmonella and help protect against some other infections.
If you follow these simple suggestions, which typically don't take any extra time, you can prevent becoming a statistic. Salmonella infections — which can range from the inconvenient to devastating — are usually avoidable. Keep your family happy and healthy.