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Pet Food Salmonella Sickens People

CDC Probing Multi-State Human Outbreak of Salmonella Schwarzengrund Linked to Dry Pet Food
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 29, 2007 -- The CDC is investigating a salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 66 people in 18 states and appears to be linked to dry pet food.

"People who think they might have become ill after contact with dry pet food or with an animal that has eaten dry pet food should consult their health care providers," states the CDC.

The CDC and FDA warn people to take the following steps to limit their risk of salmonella infection from pets or pet food:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap right after handling dry pet foods and treats.
  • Wash hands before preparing food and before eating.
  • Keep infants away from pet feeding areas. Don't allow infants to touch or eat dog food.
  • Wash pet food bowls, dishes, and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after each use.
  • Don't use the pet's feeding bowl as a scooping utensil. Instead, scoop out pet food with clean scoop or spoon dedicated for that purpose.
  • Dispose of old or spoiled pet food products in a safe manner, such as in a securely tied plastic bag in a covered trash receptacle.
  • Buy products in good condition, without dents, tears, or other signs of package damage.
  • Promptly refrigerate or discard any unused, leftover wet pet food. Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Store dry products in a cool, dry place at less than 80º Fahrenheit.
  • If possible, store dry pet food in its original bag, with the top of the bag folded closed, inside a clean plastic container with a lid. Don’t use that container for other purposes.
  • Keep pets away from food storage and preparation areas.
  • Keep pets away from garbage and household trash.

Salmonella Outbreak: Infants at Risk

Salmonella is a bacterial illness that causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The ongoing human outbreak involves a strain of salmonella called Salmonella Schwarzengrund.

Most people recover from salmonella infection in four to seven days without treatment. But the young, elderly, and people with weak immune systems are more vulnerable.

Of patients with detailed information, almost a third developed bloody diarrhea, a quarter were hospitalized, and nearly 40% were babies no more than 1 year old, according to the CDC.

The CDC is investigating why human illness, especially among infants, is associated with dry pet food. Factors under investigation include handling and storage of dry pet food, hand-washing practices, exposure of children to dry pet food, and location in the home where pets are fed.

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