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Drug-resistant salmonella from chicken sickens people in Pa., N.J., and 27 other states

Federal health investigators have not been able to narrow down the source of the problem chicken.

Raw chicken products contaminated with Salmonella Infantis have made 92 people sick since January.
Raw chicken products contaminated with Salmonella Infantis have made 92 people sick since January.Read moreiStock

Maybe you should think about giving the other white meat a try.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday that Pennsylvania is leading the pack in a 29-state outbreak of drug-resistant salmonella infections linked to raw chicken products.

Pennsylvania has 11 of the 92 known cases of people who have fallen ill to Salmonella infantis between Jan. 19 and Oct. 15. New York has reported 10 cases, the second most, while New Jersey and Massachusetts are close behind with nine each. Of all those stricken, 21 had to be hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.

Unfortunately, the CDC hasn't been able to pinpoint the source of the outbreak.

"Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that many types of raw chicken products from a variety of sources are contaminated with Salmonella infantis and are making people sick," the CDC website stated.

In addition to raw chicken products meant for human consumption, the outbreak strain has also been identified in samples taken from raw chicken pet food and live chickens, the CDC reported. The culprit strain has been found to be resistant to multiple antibiotics.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health declined to identify the areas where the commonwealth's cases occurred, but a spokesperson said at least four have been hospitalized. In New Jersey, there have been one case each in Camden, Bergen, Monmouth, and Passaic Counties; two in Middlesex; and three in Union County.

According to the CDC, a substantial portion of the people who have gotten sick in the outbreak and who were interviewed by health investigators said they had prepared or ate chicken purchased raw, including ground chicken, chicken parts, or whole chicken. One person got sick after pets in his or her home ate raw ground-chicken pet food.

There is no need to stop eating chicken or for retailers to stop selling the products, federal health officials say, but precautions should be taken when preparing raw chicken.

  1. Wash your hands before and after preparing food or having contact with animals.

  2. Cook chicken thoroughly to kill harmful germs. For chicken and chicken products, that means cooking and reheating to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

  3. Don't spread germs from raw chicken around food-preparation areas. Germs in raw chicken can contaminate other foods and kitchen surfaces. Wash kitchen counters, cutting boards, and utensils with warm, soapy water after they come in contact with raw chicken. The CDC recommends against washing raw poultry before cooking.

  4. The CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets. They can make your pets sick, and you can get sick handling the food.

Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps within 12 to 72 hours of being exposed to the bacteria. The sickness usually lasts about four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.

However, severe diarrhea may require hospitalization. In rare cases, salmonella can cause death unless the person is treated with antibiotics.

Chicken is one of several foods that have caused recent salmonella outbreaks this year. Outbreaks that have affected Pennsylvania and New Jersey were linked to raw turkey, Kellogg's Honey Smacks cereal, and eggs. People in Pennsylvania also came in contact with salmonella this year through frozen shredded coconut and Kratom, an herbal product with opioid-like properties that has been linked to deaths locally and elsewhere.