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How common is salmonella infection?

Salmonella is commonly found in birds, in reptiles, in chickens, and in humans. There are more than 2,000 types of salmonella.

Every year, the CDC gets reports of about 40,000 cases of salmonella illnesses. The actual number of cases may be higher because not all cases get reported to the CDC. In fact, the CDC estimates that for every reported case, 38 cases go unreported.

An estimated 400 people per year die of acute salmonella infection, according to the CDC.

But the Salmonella Saintpaul strain is rare in humans. Last year, there were 400 reported cases. And last year there were only 25 cases of infection with the specific Saintpaul subtype causing the current outbreak.

Are salmonella cases on the rise?

Not according to the CDC's preliminary food safety data for 2007, which show no significant change from 2004-2007 in the incidence of salmonella infection reported to the CDC. But the salmonella incidence rate is more than twice as high as the government's goal for 2010, so the CDC says "new approaches" are needed to curb salmonella infection.

How is salmonella infection diagnosed?

By a stool test.

How is salmonella infection treated?

Most people don't require treatment other than drinking plenty of fluids. People with severe diarrhea may require rehydration with intravenous fluids. Antibiotics are usually not used unless the salmonella infection has spread beyond the intestines.

What about other outbreaks of food poisoning?

The Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak is the major national food safety issue at the moment. Other outbreaks you probably heard about in recent years include the 2006 E. coli outbreak in fresh spinach, the 2007 salmonella outbreak in Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter, the 2007 Veggie Booty recall because of salmonella risk, the 2007 recall of certain Banquet or generic store-brand turkey or chicken pot pies linked to a salmonella outbreak, and the 2007 recall by Topps Meat Co. of more than 21 million pounds of frozen ground beef products because of E. coli risk.

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