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Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods and now they're on the "black list" because of the nationwide outbreak of salmonella infections.

Salmonella gastroenteritis is a serious disease, Norbert. Until the source of this contamination is found it would be best to avoid the types of tomatoes responsible.

First recognized in April, the disease has been found in 383 people in thirty states. At least 48 people have been hospitalized and one person in Texas may have died from this. While the reported numbers aren't huge, Salmonella cases are always under reported so there are likely thousands more.

What's remarkable was how they were able to narrow this outbreak to a single source since Salmonella gastroenteritis is a common food borne disease in the US.

Also consider there are more than 2000 different types of Salmonella that cause gastroenteritis. The Centers for Disease Control compared the DNA "genetic fingerprints" of bacteria isolated from infected individuals and found they all involve Salmonella serotype Stpaul. This particular Salmonella is relatively rare so this outbreak is unlikely to be a random pattern of disease.

The CDC was able to determine that uncooked tomatoes were the common food consumed by these individuals. This is a nifty piece of detective work by the agency charged to help protect us from disease.

People with Salmonella gastroenteritis get diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever in 12-72 hours after eating contaminated food. While most people feel like they want to die, they rarely do. But in people with impaired immune systems, the disease can become life threatening. This may be the case for the death in Texas.

Tracking and identifying the source of outbreaks is important for the control of infectious diseases. It is also one of the many reasons why it is important to continue to invest in a vibrant and responsive public health system in the US.

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For more information…

Really Bad Tomatoes
Salmonellosis Outbreak in Certain Types of Tomatoes — Updated: June 23, 2008 — Comprehensive Food and Drug Administration site about the recent salmonella outbreak associated with raw tomatoes.
"FDA has issued a warning to consumers nationwide that an outbreak of Salmonella serotype Saintpaul, an uncommon type of Salmonella, has been linked to consumption of some raw red plum, red Roma, round red tomatoes, and products containing these raw tomatoes."
For more information…

How to avoid salmonella from tomatoes
Practical advice about salmonella contaminated tomatoes. "The Food and Drug Administration updated the ongoing salmonella Saintpaul outbreak on June 20 saying the source of the outbreak might be Florida or Mexico, but many of the tomatoes producing countries in the two regions have already been ruled out as the source…"
For more information…

Comprehensive Center for Disease Control Website that discuss the disease mediated by Salmonella.
Salmonellosis is an infection with bacteria called Salmonella. Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment.
For more information…


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