UPDATED: Outbreak sickens dozens; no cause found; investigation closed

UPDATED: Outbreak sickens dozens; no cause found; investigation closed

by Sue Jones
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UPDATED April 15, 2020, to include comment from the CDC.

The FDA has concluded its investigation of a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Miami with a one-word public statement: closed.

A source for the pathogen, which has sickened at least 65 people, remains unknown, according to the Food and Drug Administration. In its weekly outbreak update, the agency ended the investigation with as little fanfare as it began it. The FDA’s initial announcement was a one-line entry on its weekly outbreak update table.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assisted with the outbreak investigation.

“CDC investigated an outbreak of 65 S. Miami infections from four states. Illnesses occurred from Nov. 12, 2020, to Dec. 20, 2020. CDC is most likely to post an outbreak notice when the investigation identifies a specific food linked to illness and the food is still in stores, restaurants or homes,” a CDC spokeswoman told Food Safety News.

In its original outbreak notification on Jan. 13, the FDA’s weekly CORE investigation table listed 48 patients in the outbreak. Neither the FDA nor the CDC has revealed what states are involved in the outbreak. 

The CORE investigation table indicates that traceback was undertaken and that samples were collected and tested. No further information on the investigation is provided. The outbreak table refers the public to general information pages on Salmonella and the FDA investigation process.

When the outbreak was added to the weekly CORE update an FDA spokesperson told Food Safety News the agency just didn’t have enough information on the traceback efforts to release any details.

“If an entry in this column reads ‘Not Yet Identified’ we don’t have enough evidence to determine what specific food is making people sick at this stage of the investigation. The investigations on the table will be at many different stages, and when we have narrowed the traceback investigation enough to identify a likely food as the suspect vehicle, we will report that information publicly,” according to a spokesperson for the CORE program who responded to previous questions from Food Safety News.

“After looking for signals that could be an early warning of an outbreak and then determining that an FDA-regulated food item is likely causing an outbreak, the outbreak is transferred to a response team. At that time, the information regarding that outbreak will post on the CORE Investigation Table.”

The investigation has been closed without any additional information being posted.

About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about any possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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