Eggs are in the news with week with a concerning outbreak related to Salmonella related to shelled eggs.

Outbreak Information

On October 4, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an announcement that an investigation had been launched looking into a string of foodborne illnesses caused by Salmonella. The Salmonella poisonings, caused by the serotype Oranienburg, have affected 8 people so far. The 8 illnesses are spread out over three states, including Illinois with 1 case, Kansas with 1 case, and Missouri with 6 cases. These illnesses were reported to have begun between the dates of April 23, 2016 to August 24, 2016. Those sickened in the outbreak range in age from 1 year to 85 years old. Two out of the eight sickened needed to be hospitalized because of their illness. There have not been any deaths reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was able to learn about the outbreak through the use of the PulseNet system, which linked the eight people sickened to a genetically similar strain of Salmonella Oranienburg.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in cooperation with local and state health officials, performed a traceback investigation, as well as genetic testing, in order to find the source of the outbreak. The investigation eventually uncovered that the likely source of the outbreak is the Good Earth Egg Company. The Bonne Terre, Missouri company was the only egg supplier for a restaurant visited by an ill person prior to their illness. The outbreak was confirmed to have originated from the Good Earth Egg company when samples taken from shell eggs tested positive for Salmonella Oranienburg. The Salmonella found on the shell eggs was genetically related to the Salmonella found in people affected by the outbreak.

The traceback investigation eventually led to a recall. On October 3, 2016, Good Earth Egg Company issued a voluntary recall for shell eggs as a result of the outbreak. Shell eggs under recall were packaged in a variety of ways, including 6 count cartons, 10 count cartons, 12 count cartons, 18 count cartons, 15 dozen cases, and 30 dozen cases. Not all shell eggs produced by Good Earth Egg Company are under recall, though. The recall includes all shell egg products with best by dates on or prior to 10/8/16. Recalled products will also have the code 252. Both of these numbers can be found under the brand name label “Packed for” or “Produced for Good Earth Egg Company” and the license number. The recalled eggs were distributed to retail locations across the Midwest. They were also distributed to restaurants, wholesalers, and to customers through direct sales. Large amounts of recalled eggs were distributed throughout the states of Missouri and Illinois. Good Earth Eggs can be found at various Dierbergs, Shop n’ Save, Straubs, Midtowne Market, and Price Chopper locations throughout these states.

However, this is not the first time that Good Earth Egg Company has been linked to foodborne illnesses. In early January, 2016, Good Earth Egg Company issued a very similar recall. The FDA had discovered that the main Good Earth Egg facility was contaminated with Salmonella Oranienburg. The recall from January also stated that there had been cases of Salmonella poisoning associated with the recall. That outbreak of Salmonella would eventually sicken 52 people across six different states. Most of the cases of illness linked to this outbreak began back in 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their October 4, 2016 investigation announcement that the strain of Salmonella linked to this outbreak is genetically similar to the Salmonella Oranienburg responsible for the 2015 outbreak.

Pathogen Information

Salmonella infections are one of the most common forms of foodborne illness. Health Officials first tracked Salmonella in 1962, but they first detected Salmonella long before this time. Dr. Salmon first discovered the bacteria and its effects more than 125 years ago. There are many different strains of Salmonella bacteria, but all will cause illness in humans. The 32 different serotypes, or strains, of Salmonella bacteria help investigators pinpoint potential outbreaks, as well as their sources. When the number of infections reported increases rapidly and suddenly, it is an indicator to health officials that an outbreak is taking place. Health officials can then investigate the outbreak, usually by taking samples and by conducting interviews. There is sometimes a correlation between interview answers, which can help investigators locate a source. In this outbreak, investigators discovered that 17 of those sickened in the outbreak ate sprouts before their illness began. Although interviews can help locate potential sources, the best way for health officials to learn more about an outbreak is through the testing of samples. When medical providers retrieve samples from ill people or from the environment, the samples undergo testing to learn more about them. This type of testing reveals is the bacteria’s DNA fingerprint. This fingerprint, a solution of the process of pulsed field gel electrophoresis, is unique to the bacteria and strain involved in the outbreak. The DNA fingerprint is then uploaded to the PulseNet system. The PulseNet system is a database of DNA fingerprints maintained by the CDC. If a saved sample matches another sample, there may be a connection between the two. When multiple samples match through the PulseNet system, it is another clue to investigators about the origin and size of the outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Salmonella bacteria infects about 1.2 million people each year in the United States. This leads to the hospitalization of about 19,000 people each year. There are an estimated 450 deaths caused by Salmonella infections. A case of Salmonella poisoning will generally produce symptoms within 12 and 72 hours after infection. Usually, Salmonella infections will produce symptoms including vomiting, fever, abdominal cramping, and nausea. While a Salmonella infection may subside on its own within a week, the infection may worsen or cause severe dehydration. This may make hospitalization necessary. Those with certain risk factors, including the elderly, children, and those with suppressed immune systems may be at an increased risk of developing a serious Salmonella infection. If you or a loved one begin to show the symptoms of Salmonella poisoning, contact a medical professional.