Tuesday, October 30th, the New Mexico Department of Health issued a press release warning New Mexico residents of a Salmonella outbreak believed linked to ground beef. Since late August, 30 New Mexico residents have been diagnosed with Salmonella, 24% of those people were admitted to the hospital. As of the date of this post, only a few cases have been reported to the CDC. Here’s what you need to know about the New Mexico Salmonella Beef Outbreak:
The CDC estimates 1.2 million people contract Salmonella every year, and 23,000 are hospitalized. The disease is also responsible for 450 deaths in the United States every year. Most of these incidences, contaminated food is responsible for the lion’s share: roughly 1 million cases, 19,000 hospitalizations, and 380 deaths.
Salmonella is a genus of bacteria which lives in the intestines of animals and humans. The bacteria are shared through close contact, or even just being in the same area where the animals live. Infected food and animals will not appear infected, and through cross contamination, salmonella can be found in produce as well.
Hence, one contaminated cow can lead to a whole bunch of contaminated meat in a now tainted facility shipping meat all over the country. Meat must be recalled, and the facility thoroughly disinfected, if it has not been already.
The disease caused by the Salmonella bacteria is called salmonellosis. Both the bacterium and the disease are named after Dr. Daniel Elmer Salmon, whose assistant discovered the bacteria way back in 1885. Dr. Salmon spent much of his career studying animal disease for the US Department of Agriculture and the bacteria was later named in his honor. Fitting, considering he was the man in charge when the Bureau of Animal Industry began the federal meat inspection program.
There are many different branches to the Salmonella family tree, with some variation on the disease (some causing Typhoid fever). But according the CDC, the type most common in the US is Salmonella serotype Enteritidis which cause the gastrointestinal symptoms with which we are most familiar. Salmonellosis is more common in the summer than the winter, possibly due to food sitting out in tepid temperatures which are downright hospitable for bacteria.
People contract salmonellosis typically by eating contaminated food which has not been properly prepared. You can also get salmonellosis from handling birds, reptiles, amphibians, turtles, or things they or their feces have touched.
You might have Salmonella poisoning if…
Most people who contract Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. Illness lingers typically 4 to 7 days, but most people recover without treatment. Sometimes the symptoms are so severe that the sick person must be hospitalized.
The bacterial infection can spread from the intestines to the blood, and from there to other parts of the body. In these cases, Salmonella can actually cause death unless it is treated with antibiotics.
In very rare cases salmonellosis survivors can develop pain in their joints, which is called reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis is very difficult to treat and may last for months or years. It does not matter if you treated salmonellosis with antibiotics or not. According to the CDC, some people who develop reactive arthritis also develop irritation in the eyes and also painful urination.
Protecting Your Family
There is no vaccine for salmonellosis, and some strains are antibiotic resistant.
Children under the age of 5 are the most vulnerable to Salmonella poisoning, along with older adults and any others with a weakened immune system. The weaker the individual, the higher the risk of severe infection. Some medications, for example, medications which reduce stomach acid, can increase the risk of Salmonella poisoning. Breastfeeding, if it’s possible, reduces the chances of an infant contracting salmonellosis.
The good news is that most people recover completely from salmonellosis, though it may take months for their bowels to function normally again.
Salmonellosis is incredibly preventable. Industry standards and treatment of municipal water supplies are highly effective measures that have been in place for decades and are largely out of sight out of mind for the general populace. However, you can still be proactive, especially in times like this with an outbreak going on in NM.
For the cost of a good meat thermometer, dish soap and a sponge, you can protect your family from ever going through the misery of salmonellosis.
Be sure to follow the guidelines provided by the USDA for safe internal food temperatures:
|Product||Minimum Internal Temperature & Rest Time|
|Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb
Steaks, chops, roasts
|145 °F (62.8 °C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Ground meats||160 °F (71.1 °C)|
|Ham, fresh or smoked (uncooked)||145 °F (62.8 °C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Fully Cooked Ham
|Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140 °F (60 °C) and all others to 165 °F (73.9 °C).|
|Product||Minimum Internal Temperature|
|All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing)||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
|Eggs||160 °F (71.1 °C)|
|Fish & Shellfish||145 °F (62.8 °C)|
|Leftovers||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
|Casseroles||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
Make sure to refrigerate raw meat immediately when returning from the grocery store. If you are shopping on a hot day, make sure to have a cooler available for transporting your meat home.
Wash kitchen surfaces with soap before and after handling raw meat on them, even if you use a cutting board there could have been splatter.
Make sure to thoroughly wash knives and cutting boards and other utensils after touching uncooked meats.
Wash your hands often while preparing food, between food items, especially if you are handing raw meat. Wash your hands before touching anything else, otherwise you’ll have to wash that thing, too.
Be certain to store your raw meats separate from other foods.
Go to a doctor if you or your child, or an elderly or immune compromised loved one experience abdominal pain, fever, and/or diarrhea.
If someone in your family contracts salmonellosis they should not prepare food or pour water for others until their diarrhea has resolved.
If you have small animals, particularly birds, amphibians, or reptiles, make sure to wash your hands before and after handling your pet, and make sure not to touch your eyes or face before you have washed your hands.
If you believe you have developed a Salmonella infection from eating beef products, we want you to know that a Salmonella Lawyer at the Lange Law Firm, PLLC is currently investigating this matter and offering free legal consultations. Our lawyer, Jory Lange became a lawyer to help make our communities and families safer.
If you or a loved one have become ill with Salmonella, you can call 833.330.3663 for a free legal consultation or complete the form here.
By: Abigail Cossette Ryan, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)