This year, at least 92 people have been sick from a drug-resistant form of salmonella bacteria, as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced yesterday. The tribe responsible for this outbreak was discovered in 29 states and has taken 21 people to hospital.
This strain is particularly worrisome because it does not respond to at least 12 antibiotics commonly used to treat this type of infection, officials say. To learn more about drug-resistant Salmonella, Health spoke with Sam Alcaine, PhD, Assistant Professor of Food Safety at Cornell University. Here's what he says, consumers should know.
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacterium that lives in the intestines of mammals, reptiles and birds. In humans, it can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, along with headaches, chills and other flu-like symptoms.
"When an animal is sick or when a person is sick, they dump the bacteria into the environment," says Alcaine. "It enters a food source or water source and is resumed to continue the cycle."
In the intestinal tract salmonella bacteria attack the mucosa, which is why people sometimes experience blood in the stool. "It's very uncomfortable," says Alcaine, "but most people, when they have a healthy immune system, get better on their own."
What is the difference between drug-resistant salmonella?
a Salmonella strain is particularly virulent, which means that it causes more serious symptoms and does not disappear as easily. Salmonella, even "normal" strains, can also be dangerous to people with weakened immune systems who are unable to fight the bacteria themselves.
In these cases, doctors typically prescribe antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin and ceftriaxone. to kill the salmonella bacteria. And here comes the problem with drug-resistant strains into play.
CONNECTIONS: Chicken is the leading cause of food-borne outbreaks
"We have seen a broad-based increase in bacteria – whether Salmonella, E. coli or many other bacteria – that have greater resistance against antibiotics, "says Alcaine. Experts say several factors are contributing to this growing problem, including inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics to patients and excessive use of antibiotics in factory farming.
"If someone drops one of these MDR [multidrug resistant] salmonella and this strain is not tested to see which antibiotic it might be resistant to, a doctor may prescribe the typical medications that are not affective," says Alcaine. "And that gives the bacteria more time to continue with the infection and worsen."
What is important to know about the current outbreak?
The outbreak reported yesterday by the CDC has taken place since January, and has made 92 people sick. The patients range in age from less than 1 to 105, and 69% are female.
The CDC interviewed 54 of the sick people and 89% of them reported that they were eating chicken (like whole chicken, ground) chicken or chicken pieces) that were bought raw. One person became ill after one pet ate raw chicken food, and another reported living with someone working in a facility raising or processing chickens
RELATED: 24 things you should never order Eat Out
So far, not a single supplier has been identified as the source of this outbreak. Rather, this specific strain has been shown in a variety of different chicken products from different locations.
This strain is known to be resistant to 12 different antibiotics, according to the CDC, including the usual first-line therapy for salmonella infection. Fortunately, there are still a few medications – including azithromycin, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid and meropenem – for which the bacteria appear to be susceptible.
How can consumers protect themselves?
Poultry is a well-known carrier of salmonella, and it is often the source of salmonella outbreaks in humans, says Alcaine. But that does not mean that you have to do without chicken.
Consumers can protect themselves from drug-resistant salmonella just as they protect themselves from salmonella by washing their hands with soap and water after bathing and before and after handling raw meat or poultry, making sure that the cutting boards are clean Preparation of raw food is thoroughly washed and by cooking chicken to 165 degrees. (High temperatures kill Salmonella bacteria.)
People should also be careful to prevent contamination of other surfaces in the kitchen when they come into contact with raw chicken. "When I grew up, we washed raw chicken in the sink before cooking," says Alcaine. "We now know that you should not do that because spraying water on the carcass only spreads bacteria in your kitchen."
In addition, Alcaine (and the CDC) does not recommend feeding dogs or cats with raw chicken feed. "If they get sick, they will start shedding the bacteria and they can also make people sick," he says.
To get our top stories in your inbox, sign up for the […] 19659026] Healthy Living Newsletter