CDC Identifies Source of 8-Year Old Strain of Salmonella

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have finally found the origins of a strain of salmonella that has been sickening people across the United States for the last eight years, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday. The CDC declined to name the company specifically, only saying that it was a hatchery located in the western part of the nation.

How did the CDC track down the source of the contamination?

The agency reportedly used the genetic makeup of the particular strain of salmonella, known as Montevideo, to work backwards towards the source of the outbreak. It also used the cooperative efforts of various experts on poultry and animal health, as well as interviews with those that had become sick from exposure to the contamination.

How did the investigators know it came from poultry?

There has been a marked increase in the number of cases of salmonella in the U.S. that can be directly linked to the handling of live poultry. The particular strain of salmonella, Montevideo, is rather rare, and was identified by an outside network called PulseNet.

How many people have been affected in the eight years that it took to identify the source of the contamination?

Approximately 316 people were identified as having been affected by the bug, according to MedPage Today, although the CDC has estimated that as many as another 5,000 cases may have gone undocumented. The vast majority of those who became ill were children under 5 years old.

How was the salmonella able to reach people in 43 different states?

The hatchery in question, which has only been identified as "Hatchery C," is quite large, able to ship almost 250,000 chicks a week at peak season, according to MSNBC. It is a prime supplier to those who are looking to buy a chick to give as a gift, particularly for Easter, when the company experiences its highest demand.

What will be the ramifications for Hatchery C of the CDC's discovery?

The hatchery reportedly cooperated with the CDC's investigation and took steps to both clean their facilities and prevent the spread of salmonella through their poultry. Because the hatchery was fully compliant, and the number of new cases of this particular strain of salmonella has dropped to almost nothing so far this year, the CDC has no plans to close down or penalize the hatchery for the outbreak.

Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.

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