Salmonella death in California linked to turkey meat

Public health officials are warning consumers across the country to be cautious in handling and cooking poultry meat in the midst of a salmonella outbreak that has killed a Sacramento County resident.

The victim, whom authorities declined to identify at the request of relatives, died after apparently becoming poisoned by a strain of salmonella bacteria linked to ground turkey meat, state and county health authorities said.

The death was the first reported in an outbreak that has spanned 26 states and sickened 77 people since March. One other related case has been found in Sacramento County, and four others across California. Michigan, with 11 incidents, had the highest number of cases as of Tuesday afternoon.

Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and is generally transmitted by contaminated food or water. Most people who become poisoned by it "get better all by themselves," without treatment and usually within a week, said Sacramento County health officer Dr. Glennah Trochet.

Occasionally, she said, the bacteria can invade the bloodstream and become fatal.

"As with any illness, those at greatest risk are the very young and the very old," or people with chronic illness, said Trochet.

Salmonella poisoning is one of the most frequent illnesses associated with contaminated food. It causes more than 400 deaths annually in the United States.

Sacramento County has documented 64 cases of salmonella so far this year, said Trochet, including the two related to the most recent outbreak. The numbers have remained "fairly steady" in recent history, she said. The familiar Heidelberg strain of the bacteria appears responsible for the recent outbreak.

About half of those who became ill during the current outbreak whom investigators were able to interview said they had consumed ground turkey before they got sick, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a public health alert on Friday because of the ongoing series of salmonella cases related to ground turkey. Investigators have yet to identify a contamination source for the outbreak, according to the agency website. As a result, no recall has been ordered.

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