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Tomatoes: Culprits of Salmonella outbreak

Contaminated tomatoes and infected food service workers are suspected to be behind the Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 171 people in 19 states. //

DNA fingerprinting has identified Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium as the cause of the outbreak according to a statement released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a press release yesterday. The symptoms of the disease are fever and non bloody diarrhea that may extend up to a week. Clinical data of 73 patients has revealed 14 hospitalized and no deaths.

The CDC reported that the outbreak appeared to be over although the hunt for the source of the outbreak may take days to weeks. The agency said, "At this time, few new cases are being detected, and there is little evidence of continuing risk to the public."

The CDC detected the outbreak about 2 weeks ago through a national database that identifies patterns in food borne illness reports. Cases in the outbreak have been reported since Sep 1 with most of the affected states being in the eastern half of the nation.

According to Carlota Medus, PhD, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health in St. Paul, samples from 14 patients in Minnesota matched the outbreak strain on pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Minnesota cases mainly occurred between Sep 12 and Oct 13 and when a pattern was noticed they contacted the CDC.

Medus said that a case-control study in Minnesota appeared to suggest that the contamination source may be tomatoes and that the five cases appeared to be linked to the same fast-food restaurant. She said, "Our study is pretty small, though. It would be nice to have more supporting information, so it's a little too soon to say."

Foodborne disease expert Craig W. Hedberg, PhD, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis, called the outbreak fairly significant in its
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