Salmonella cases reach 691 in slowing outbreak

Mar 17, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – The case count in the nationwide Salmonella outbreak tied to peanut products has climbed to 691, signaling continued slowing of the outbreak, but a trickle of additional cases is likely to continue for months, federal health officials said today.

"The numbers of new cases have declined substantially since the peak in December, but illnesses are still being reported among people who ate the recalled brands of peanut butter crackers after the recall," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in what it called its final online update on the outbreak.

"The outbreak is expected to continue at a low level for the next several months since consumers unaware that they have recalled products in their home continue to consume these products, many of which have a long shelf-life," the agency said.

The latest case count is eight more than was reported a week ago. Cases have been reported in 46 states and one Canadian province, with Feb 24 as the latest reported onset date, the agency said. The number of deaths believed related to the outbreak remains at nine. Among patients for whom information is available, 23% were hospitalized.

The outbreak has been blamed primarily on contamination at the Blakely, Ga., peanut processing plant of Peanut Corp. of America (PCA), though a few cases have been linked to the same company's plant in Plainview, Tex. As a result of the outbreak, the firm filed for bankruptcy in February, and it is under a federal criminal investigation because of evidence that it shipped products it knew to be contaminated.

PCA peanut products were used in thousands of products, including crackers, cookies, candy, ice cream, cereal, and pet food. The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) searchable database of recalled products currently lists 3,488 items. However, no major national brands of peanut butter sold in retail stores have been found to be contaminated.

The FDA and state agencies have contacted more than 16,000 firms throughout the food distribution chain in efforts to get potentially contaminated products off the market, the FDA said in a recently posted online bulletin.

See also:

CDC update
http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/typhimurium/update.html

CDC timeline of outbreak
http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/typhimurium/salmonellaOutbreak_timeline.pdf

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