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Salmonella Outbreak Linked To Pet Food

August 9, 2010

Pet food could be making young kids sick, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report investigating a salmonella outbreak that started in 2006.

The study, which was the subject of both a report in Monday’s edition of the journal Pediatrics and an article by AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner, looked at a two-year outbreak that left 79 people in 21 states sick between 2006 and 2008.

“Almost half of the victims were children aged 2 and younger,” and their illnesses have been traced back to dry pet foods, Tanner said. Those pet products “are an under-recognized source of salmonella infections in humans,” according to CDC researcher Casey Barton Behravesh.

“While young children were most often affected, there’s no evidence that they got sick by eating pet food,” Behravesh told Tanner. “They probably became infected by touching affected animals or dirty pet food dishes, and then putting their hands in their mouths.”

The AP report notes that a minimum of six pet food recalls have been issued due to suspected salmonella contamination. The bacteria had been discovered in dry dog and cat foods produced at the Everson, Pennsylvania-based Mars Petcare plant. The plant in question was closed in 2008 after the source of the contamination could not be identified.

“There were no reports of sick animals but investigators found salmonella bacteria in stool samples from pets without symptoms who ate tainted food,” Tanner wrote, adding that no known cases have been traced back to wet pet food and no additional pet food related salmonella cases have been identified in the past two years.

According to the CDC website, “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. However, in some persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.”

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