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With Washington leading the nation in the number of salmonella cases linked to chicken, public-health officials are reminding people that making poultry products safe requires proper handling and preparation.

The outbreak, which has sickened at least 128 people in 13 states, including 56 in Washington, began last summer. More than 30 percent, including 15 Washington residents, have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The specific strain of Salmonella Heidelberg has been linked to Foster Farms, with plants in Washington and California, health officials said.

Salmonella, a common cause of foodborne illness, typically accounts for some 600 to 800 reports of illness in the state each year. Health officials say salmonella in raw chicken is not limited to any one brand, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows the sale of raw poultry containing the bacteria.

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Symptoms of the illness usually include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, beginning one to three days after exposure, and lasting four to seven days.

Most people recover without medical treatment, but some have more serious illness, particularly the very young, elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

Health officials say to keep poultry safe:

• Keep raw poultry separate from other foods in shopping carts, grocery bags and refrigerators; use a plastic bag to prevent contaminating drips.

• Be on the alert for drippings that can contaminate cutting boards, utensils, dishes or surfaces. Use a mild bleach solution (1 teaspoon per gallon of warm water) to sanitize countertops, utensils and cutting surfaces.

• Always wash your hands after handling poultry.

• Thaw poultry before cooking to ensure it is cooked through to 165 degrees F.

For more information, see the CDC’s salmonella page:

Carol M. Ostrom:, 206-464-2249, or at Twitter @costrom

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