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Source of Nationwide Salmonella Outbreak Still Unknown

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An outbreak of salmonella food poisoning has made 388 people sick across 42 states, sending 18 percent of them to the hospital, U.S. health officials said on Wednesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is trying to trace the source of the outbreak, which began in September. The Department of Agriculture, state health officials and the Food and Drug Administration are also involved.

The CDC said poultry, cheese and eggs are the most common source of this particular strain, known as Salmonella typhimurium.

"It is often difficult to identify sources of foodborne outbreaks. People may not remember the foods they recently ate and may not be aware of all of the ingredients in food. That’s what makes these types of investigations very difficult," said CDC spokesman David Daigle.

Daigle did not specify how many people were hospitalized, but the percentage he gave puts that figure at about 70.

"Because foods of animal origin may be contaminated with Salmonella, people should not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat. Persons also should not consume raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products. Produce should be thoroughly washed," he said.

Every year, approximately 40,000 people are reported ill with salmonella in the United States, the CDC says, but it said many more cases are never reported.

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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