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Fast Response Crucial in Outbreaks of Food-Borne Illness: Study
Date:2/24/2011

t ate at one restaurant in one state, can be aided by looking at menus or recipes to help us efficiently identify foods and even specific ingredients."

Several of the 2008 salmonella clusters were traced to Mexican-style restaurants, one to a mobile Mexican-style food vendor, and one to a privately catered event, the study noted.

Behravesh said a collaboration of agencies and laboratories have established the "OutbreakNet Sentinel Sites, or OSS, and one of the key components of that is one that could have saved time in this [2008] outbreak. That is the ability to identify and interview people even faster and help with recalls."

But consumers can -- and must -- protect themselves, said Dr. Mark E. Rupp, professor of internal medicine and an infectious disease expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

"This emphasizes why people need to do food-safety practices at home -- because produce from the grocery store may be contaminated so they need to wash and take care when preparing food," he said.

People with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and those with AIDS, need to take special care when it comes to food safety because they're at greater risk of complications from food-borne infections, Rupp added.

And Americans might want to rethink their use (or overuse) of stomach-acid suppression drugs, such as proton pump inhibitors, he said.

"[Being on one of these medications] has become almost a fad [but it] decreases gastric acidity and humans evolved to have gastric acidity for a reason," Rupp said. "One is to serve as a barrier to these sorts of pathogens."

Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea in humans. Some 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States each year, although the CDC estimates that because milder cases aren't diagnosed or reported, the actual number of infections may be 30 or more times greater. Approximately 600 people die ea
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