Long-term care communities now have one more reason to be diligent about food safety and to avoid cross-contamination of foods—stronger, more dangerous strains of Salmonella, a family of microbes responsible for certain food-borne illnesses.
Several California poulty-processing plants were identified as the source of last week’s Salmonella outbreak that infected nearly 300 people in at least 18 states. Of greater concern was the hospitalization rate last week: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 42 percent of those sickened ended up in the hospital within 48 hours of the health alert announcement—nearly double the usual rate—and may be related to stronger, more antibiotic-resistant strains.
The CDC has warned the agricultural and food service industry of Salmonella’s growing resistance to antibiotics, which has been on the CDC’s radar since the early 1990s. Most otherwise healthy people are not given antibiotic treatment for a Samonella infection, since “antimicrobials may not completely eliminate the bacteria and may select for resistant strains, which subsequently can lead to the drug becoming ineffective,” notes the World Health Organization.
However, Salmonella outbreaks can be life-threatening for the elderly. The vomiting and diarrhea associated with the infection can be especially dangerous, and the infection can trigger gastroenteritis—a serious condition that often requires antimicrobial intervention.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, Salmonella is a naturally-occurring bacteria that can be killed with proper cooking and contained by avoiding the cross-contamination of raw meats with other foods. Salmonella can survive for months in water and for weeks on a dry surface.