Commentary By: Cara Litvin PGY-3
The CDC has issued a public health advisory regarding a large outbreak of Salmonella infections in 39 states since August. As of Tuesday February 14, 288 cases had been reported to the CDC. Among the 120 patients for whom clinical information is available, 31 patients have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported. The most cases have been reported in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri. Although the outbreak began in August, with no more than 2 cases reported each day, the source of the outbreak has only recently been identified as peanut butter.
According to the Associated Press, the salmonella outbreak is linked to tainted peanut butter produced by ConAgra Foods at a plant in Georgia. The peanut butter is sold under the Peter Pan and Great Value brand names. According to the CDC, this is the nation�Ѣs first salmonella outbreak associated with peanut butter, and the process by which salmonella contaminated the peanut butter is still being investigated. Tainted jars have a product code beginning in 2111 on the lid, which can be returned to the company for a refund.
Persons infected with salmonella usually begin to experience symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness can persist from 4 to 7 days and is usually self-limiting, although the elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems can be prone to a more severe illness, sometimes requiring hospitalization.
The NYC Department of Health is requesting that healthcare providers consider Salmonella in the differential for patients with diarrhea. Stool cultures should be sent in all patients with diarrhea and a history of having consumed peanut butter. All confirmed cases of Salmonella, and all suspected and confirmed cases in patients who report a consumption of peanut butter in the week prior to illness should be reported to the NewYork City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).