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Salmonella Hits 177 in 11 States

June 4, 1998

Federal health authorities said today they are investigating 177 cases in 11 states of a rare strain of salmonella to determine if there is a single source of infection.

Thirty people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported, said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

In Illinois, the hardest hit state with 43 cases scattered across 12 counties, state health officials suspect there is a single source _ perhaps the same contaminated food. But Skinner said CDC investigators were still working on the question and it was unclear how soon they would know whether there is any link.

All the people were sickened by the strain of the salmonella bacteria called agona. Like other strains, it causes food poisoning and leads to flu-like symptoms such as headache, diarrhea, vomiting and fever lasting up to 12 days. Salmonella is rarely fatal.

The agona strain accounts for only about 500 to 1,000 of the estimated 2 million to 4 million salmonella cases in the United States each year, the CDC said.

``We’re using a particular type of computerized program that allows us to compare strains of these bacteria to determine ... whether or not there could be a single source,″ Skinner said today.

Salmonella is most often spread through animal products such as raw or undercooked meat, eggs, fish and poultry, but in recent years fresh fruits and vegetables have been implicated in outbreaks of the infection.

Skinner said the agona strain can poison the same foods that other salmonella strains do. He said he couldn’t provide more details until investigators learn more.

The other states reporting the type of salmonella since early April were Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Kansas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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