Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Ground Beef Has Killed 1, Infected 9

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What to know about a new outbreak of Salmonella. Getty Images
  • A Salmonella outbreak has infected 10 people in six states, leaving one person dead.
  • The particular strain of Salmonella detected in this outbreak is dangerous, according to experts.
  • Salmonella Dublin is more likely to be antibiotic resistant and cause more severe symptoms.

A Salmonella outbreak that’s been linked to ground beef has left eight people hospitalized and one dead.

As of Nov. 1, a total of 10 people across six states — California, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Iowa — have been infected with a severe strain called Salmonella Dublin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most of those who’d been infected said they ate ground beef purchased from various locations before they got sick.

The CDC is still trying to identify a sole supplier of the beef and further investigating the illnesses — which took place between early August to late September.

So far, the investigation has found that the bacteria from the infected people were closely related genetically, which suggests people involved in this outbreak were most likely infected from the same source.

This has been a particularly severe Salmonella outbreak, which is most likely due to the type of strain identified in the outbreak, according to the CDC.

Salmonella enterica serotype Dublin has been recognized for causing more severe infections in humans for decades when compared with other non-typhoidal Salmonella,” Dr. Richard Martinello, a Yale Medicine infectious disease expert, told Healthline.

Whereas many types of Salmonella infections will clear up without treatment, this strain oftentimes leads to more serious complications, like sepsis.

Each year, about 1.2 million people get infected with Salmonella, the vast majority of whom recover without treatment.

Typical symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, which appear anywhere from 6 hours to 4 days after ingesting the contaminated food.

“The symptoms of most [Salmonella] cases are self-limited and dissipate over a few days without the need for antibiotic treatment,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

The outbreak strain, Salmonella Dublin, on the other hand, is very rare. According to Martinello, the CDC published a study in 2017, which found that Salmonella Dublin infections comprised about 0.25 percent of all the Salmonella infections reported over a 45-year period (1968 to 2013).

The incubation period is lengthier with Salmonella Dublin, sometimes taking up to 2 weeks for symptoms to pop up, according to Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

It’s also known to cause a more severe illness — sending more people to the hospital and putting more people at risk for serious health complications, like life-threatening blood infections.

According to the study, the hospitalization rate is much higher in this strain, approaching 78 percent.

“Typically with most strains of Salmonella, about 20 percent of people require hospitalization for IV fluids, along with medicine to treat pain and nausea,” Glatter said.

According to Martinello, most people who get infected with Salmonella Dublin are older or have underlying health issues, making it harder to bounce back after falling ill.

It’s also difficult to treat this type of Salmonella, as it’s become very resistant to many antibiotics in recent years.

Salmonella Dublin strains can be multi-drug resistant, making antibiotic treatment more challenging in those that require treatment,” Adalja said.

The CDC is not advising people to stop eating ground beef, but if you do choose to eat ground beef, it’s crucial to cook it through to 160°F (71°C).

Ground beef is especially susceptible to these sorts of contaminations — and while cooking the meat should kill all the bacteria, there’s always the risk that it may not cook fully and some bacteria could survive.

“The reason ground beef is a particular risk relative to whole cuts like steaks is that contaminating Salmonella are mixed into it when it’s made into ground beef, so it has to be cooked entirely through. Other cuts are only contaminated on their surfaces, and so less cooking generally disinfects them,” Dr. Sheldon Campbell, a Yale Medicine pathologist, explained.

There’s also a chance of cross contamination if you’ve been cooking with or around the beef.

“While thoroughly cooked ground meat is safe to eat, the person handling the raw meat can easily contaminate their hands, their countertops, and any utensils used in cooking. This contamination can then be potentially spread to other foods which may not be cooked, such as lettuce,” Martinello said.

Glatter recommends washing your hands — and under the fingernails — with soap for at least 20 seconds after handling raw meat. In addition, all raw meat should be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours of purchase to avoid the meat from spoiling.

Freezing the ground beef won’t kill the bacteria — in fact, Salmonella survive freezing quite well, says Campbell. If you do decide to eat ground beef, cook it completely and wash your hands frequently.

A Salmonella outbreak that’s been linked to ground beef has left eight people hospitalized and one dead. The outbreak, which has infected 10 people total across six states, has been caused by a very severe strain called Salmonella Dublin. The CDC is currently investigating the outbreak to determine the supplier of the contaminated meat.



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