Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Salmonella Outbreak Sickens 40: CDC Mute

August 11, 2009

Forty people in nine states, including 21 in Colorado, 5 in California and 2 in Wyoming, have been infected with an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella Newport.

Beef Packers, Inc. has recalled more than 825,000 pounds of ground beef. Safeway, the recipient of a large share of the recalled meat, has announced its own recall of meat sold in Safeway and Vons supermarkets in nine states. Wal-Mart recalled meat that was sold in Sam's Club warehouse stores.

According to USDA, the Salmonella-contaminated meat was sold at one or more Safeway, Vons or Sam's Club stores in 12 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. Some independent grocers and small chain stores in California also carried the recalled meat.

Colorado was the first to alert the public to this outbreak on July 31st, when it reported 21 illnesses in 10 Colorado counties that appeared to be linked to ground beef. On August 6th, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment ("CDPHE") advised consumers that Beef Packers, Inc. was recalling ground beef that had been produced in its Fresno, California facility and shipped to retail distribution centers in four states. CDPHE also reported that most of the Colorado outbreak victims purchased their ground beef at Safeway.

Not a single state or federal health department – except for Colorado and California – has posted information on this outbreak. CDC, which usually makes this type of information available on its website, has been silent. We don't know how many states have been affected by the outbreak, how many individuals have been infected, or how many people in total have been hospitalized. As a result, national media outlets have largely ignored this nine-state outbreak and major ground beef recall.

Why has CDC neglected to report details of this outbreak? It can't be because "only" nine states are involved; the recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to JBS Swift ground beef also involved just nine states. It can't be because "only" 40 people have been infected; the JBS Swift E. coli O157:H7 outbreak affected 23 people. It can't be due to the type of food; the JBS Swift outbreak also was due to contaminated ground beef. Can it be that CDC considers a regional Salmonella outbreak to be too small to bother posting?

Salmonella is a pathogen. An antibiotic-resistant Salmonella – especially one that is resistant to several antibiotics – is a dangerous pathogen. It can make susceptible people severely ill. It can kill its victims. CDC has been remiss in not informing the public about this outbreak.

Residents of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming deserve better treatment.

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