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Officials Still Seek Source of Salmonella Outbreak
Date:1/9/2009

Almost 400 Americans in 42 states have been sickened

FRIDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- The source of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened almost 400 Americans in 42 states remains unknown, U.S. health officials said Friday, adding that more cases are expected.

The strain of salmonella has been identified as Salmonella Typhimurium, the most common of the more than 2,500 types of salmonella bacteria in the United States. It's often found in uncooked eggs and meats, said officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who have been investigating the outbreak for several weeks.

"Cases are continuing to occur, and it is an ongoing investigation," said Dr. Rajal Mody, a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service officer. "The first people began getting ill in September, but it usually takes several weeks before enough cases have been reported to start noticing a possible outbreak."

While the cause isn't known, Mody said he suspects a food item, possibly produce or a prepared packaged food.

"When you look at the distribution of cases, it does suggest that it could be a mass-distributed food," he said. "This outbreak is on the larger side, but there have been larger outbreaks."

There have been reports of 372 people sickened between Sept. 3 and Dec. 29, 2008, with most illnesses starting after Oct. 1. About 18 percent of those who fell ill were hospitalized. Mody said he couldn't estimate when the outbreak might end, or how many people might eventually become infected with the germ.

Salmonella is typically transmitted through foods that are contaminated with animal feces, Mody said. As part of the investigation, federal health officials are interviewing infected people to see if there were common elements in their diet, he said.

Mody said most reported cases of salmonella occur in children. In the current outbreak, victims have ranged in age from less than
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