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Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Chicken (Final Update)

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Posted December 7, 2018 at 4:00 PM ET

CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) investigated a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to kosher chicken.

Latest Outbreak Information

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At A Glance

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  • As of December 7, 2018, this outbreak investigation is over.
  • A total of 25 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- were reported from six states.
    • Eleven people were hospitalized, including one death reported from New York.
  • Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that some kosher chicken products were contaminated with Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- and made people sick.
  • In interviews, ill people reported eating kosher chicken, and when asked about the specific brand eaten, several people reported Empire Kosher brand.
  • The outbreak strain was also identified in samples of raw chicken collected from two facilities, including one facility that processes Empire Kosher brand chicken.

Advice to Consumers and Retailers

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Always handle raw chicken carefully and cook it thoroughly to prevent food poisoning. This outbreak was a reminder that raw chicken products can have germs that spread around food preparation areas and can make you sick.

CDC is not advising that people avoid eating kosher chicken or Empire Kosher brand chicken.

CDC advises consumers to follow these steps to help prevent Salmonella infection from raw chicken:

  • Wash hands before and after preparing raw chicken.
  • Don’t spread germs from raw chicken around food preparation areas. Washing raw poultry before cooking is not recommended. Germs in raw poultry juices can spread to other areas and foods. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with warm, soapy water after they touch raw chicken. Use a separate cutting board for raw chicken and other raw meats if possible.
  • Cook raw chicken thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Chicken breasts, whole chickens, and ground chicken should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill harmful germs. Leftovers should be reheated to 165°F. Use a food thermometer to check, and place it in the thickest part of the food.

Symptoms of Salmonella Infection

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  • Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria.
  • The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.
  • In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body.
  • In rare cases, Salmonella infection can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
  • Children younger than 5 years of age, adults older than 65 years of age, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe illness.
  • For more information, see the CDC Salmonella website.

Investigation Details

December 7, 2018

CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) investigated a multistate outbreak of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- infections linked to kosher chicken.

Public health investigators used the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that were part of this outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC. DNA fingerprinting was performed on Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using techniques called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks. WGS gives a more detailed DNA fingerprint than PFGE. WGS performed on Salmonella bacteria from ill people in this outbreak showed that these Salmonella strains are closely related genetically. This means that the ill people were more likely to share a common source of infection.

As of December 4, 2018, a total of 25 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- were reported from six states. A list of the states and the number of cases in each can be found on the Map of Reported Cases page.

Illnesses started on dates from September 25, 2017, to August 13, 2018. Ill people ranged in age from less than one year to 76, with a median age of 16. Fifty percent of ill people are female. Of 22 people with information available, 11 (50%) were hospitalized, including a death reported from New York.

WGS analysis did not predict any antibiotic resistance in Salmonella bacteria isolated from 21 ill people and 6 chicken samples. Testing of 6 clinical isolates using standard antibiotic susceptibility testing methods by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory also showed no resistance.

Investigation of the Outbreak

In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. Of 20 people interviewed, 20 (100%) reported eating chicken products. Of 12 people who reported brand information, 10 (83%) reported specifically eating Empire Kosher brand chicken.

The outbreak strain of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- was identified in samples from raw chicken collected at two facilities, including one that processes Empire Kosher brand chicken. The samples collected by USDA-FSIS at the slaughter and processing establishment were part of USDA-FSIS’ routine testing under the Salmonella performance standards. WGS showed that the Salmonella strain from these samples is closely related genetically to the Salmonella strain from ill people.

Available data indicated that some kosher chicken products were contaminated with this strain of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- and made people sick. Consumers should always follow steps to prevent Salmonella infection from these products.

As of December 7, 2018, this outbreak investigation is over.

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