The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced 63 people have been infected with a strain of Salmonella across 10 states because of contaminated bean sprouts.
Seriousness of illness
While no deaths have been reported, 26 percent of those infected have been hospitalized to receive treatment for the infection. Salmonella triggers diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain within 12 to 72 hours of being infected. Many people with healthy immune systems are able to recover without medical intervention, but others need treatment. Without intervention, salmonella can be deadly. In fact, the CDC estimates 380 deaths can be attributed to the bacteria each year.
Even people who seem to recover quickly from the illness can have lasting health issues, according to the CDC. It can take months for people's digestive systems to return to normal. Some who become infected can have reactive arthritis, which leads to joint pain and irritation of the eyes. The condition can last for months or years, and if it leads to chronic arthritis it becomes difficult to treat.
The CDC, with help from state and local officials, tracked the contaminated bean sprouts to Wonton Foods, Inc. of Brooklyn, New York. The outbreak began Sept. 30 though the latest illnesses were accounted for Nov. 21. Of the ill people the CDC has been able to interview, 29 of 37 have reported eating bean sprouts or meals containing bean sprouts within a week of their showing symptoms.
Sprouts are particularly susceptible to carrying foodborne illnesses because they are grown in humid conditions, Michael Pozit, president of Integrated Food Service Consulting, told The Journal News. The bacteria is then only killed if the sprouts are cooked, but they are usually served fresh.
Wonton Foods has verbally agreed to stop selling the sprouts and the last shipment of the product was Nov. 18. However, there has been no official recall.
FDA advice to consumers
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers who may have had contaminated bean sprouts in their home to do a thorough cleaning of their kitchens. The FDA recommends washing the inside of the refrigerator, including the walls and shelves. Countertops and cutting boards should also be sanitized with a mixture of 1 gallon of hot water containing 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach.
If consumers go out to eat, they should request no bean sprouts are added to their items.