At least 90 people in Washington state have been sickened by salmonella infections apparently tied to eating pork, health officials said Friday. A team from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is coming to help investigate.
An outbreak of salmonella infections apparently linked to eating pork has expanded in Washington state, with at least 90 people in nine counties reported to have been ill.
More than half the cases, 55, were reported in King County. Six people have been hospitalized.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) late Friday issued a public-health alert because of concerns that the Washington salmonella infections might be tied to whole pigs used in pig roasts.
The sharp uptick in cases in less than a week and the lack of a clear source has led state health officials to ask the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send in a special team to help with the investigation. The so-called Epi-Aid group is expected to be in Washington next week, a state Department of Health spokesman said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also involved in the probe.
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Investigators say many of the cases appear to be linked to eating pork, or to exposure to raw pork, particularly roasted pigs cooked and served at private events.
The cases appear to have been caused by the same rare strain of salmonella bacteria, health officials said. The outbreak is linked to Salmonella I, 4, 5, 12:i:-, a germ that has been emerging nationally but has never before been seen in Washington state.
The USDA said illnesses connected with the outbreak have been reported with onset dates between April 25 and July 21.
“Roasting a pig is a complex undertaking with numerous potential food handling issues,” FSIS officials said in a statement.
Health officials urged consumers to follow proper handling, cooking and storage practices.
They said consumers should make sure to wash hands in hot, soapy water and to prevent cross-contamination from utensils and cutting boards used to prepare raw meat. Pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.
In addition, people should take precautions when handling live pigs or other livestock, which can also result in salmonella infections. To avoid illness, be sure to wash hands thoroughly after any animal contact.
Salmonella infections cause symptoms that include fever, diarrhea, chills, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Although most people recover quickly, the infections can be dangerous or even deadly for children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
In addition to King County, the outbreak includes cases in Snohomish, Kitsap, Mason, Thurston, Pierce, Grays Harbor, Yakima and Clark counties.