Health

Thursday, Oct 10 2013 11:57 AM

Kern County salmonella case linked to outbreak

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    By AP Photo/The Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss

    An Oct. 8, 2013, photo shows the exterior of the Foster Farms chicken plant on Cherry Avenue in southwest Fresno, Calif. The plant is one of three California poultry processing plants linked to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 278 people across the country.

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BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

A case of salmonella in Kern County has been linked to an outbreak of the disease that public health officials say may stem from raw chicken packaged at three Foster Farms facilities in California.

The Kern County Public Health Services Department received confirmation in the first week of October that a local infection was a strain of Salmonella Heidelberg involved in the outbreak, said Donna Fenton, chief environmental health specialist.

Fenton said she could not say whether the infected person was an adult or child. The California Department of Public Health confirmed that the ill person had eaten chicken from one of the three plants implicated in the outbreak.

Asked why the Kern County public health department did not send out a news release about the incident, Director Matt Constantine said, "maybe that is something we need to consider."

Constantine said the department is notified of potential salmonella infections on an almost daily basis but it is rare to find a case that can be tied to a larger outbreak.

As of Saturday, 278 infections had been reported in 17 states. More than three-quarters of those cases were from California. About 42 percent of the reported infected people had been hospitalized but no deaths had been reported yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The outbreak strains of the disease are resistant to several commonly used antibiotics, according the CDC's website.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service has not tied the cases to a particular product or production period, but Fenton said local consumers should check raw chicken product labels and packages for the plant numbers of the three facilities. The numbers are P6137, P6137A and P7632. The facilities are located in Livingston and Fresno.

"At this time we're waiting to hear if an official recall notice will be issued," Fenton said.

Fenton said the best advice is consumers is to properly cook chicken and sanitize any surface it touches. It's also important to carefully wash your hands after touching raw poultry. Constantine said chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees.

"Any time you have chicken, it should be thoroughly cooked," Fenton said.

Visit www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13 for more details on the outbreak.

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