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707 Sickened by Salmonella Tomatoes

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At least 707 people have been sickened by Salmonella -laced tomatoes in 34 states and the District of Columbia. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Texas has had been the hardest hit state, with 293 illnesses reported. Other states affected by the outbreak include Arkansas (7 persons), Arizona (36), California (10), Colorado (5), Connecticut (4), Florida (1), Georgia (15), Idaho (3), Illinois (63), Indiana (11), Kansas (11), Kentucky (1), Maryland (25), Massachusetts (17), Michigan (4), Missouri (12), New Hampshire (1), Nevada (4), New Jersey (4), New Mexico (80), New York (18), North Carolina (5), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (17), Oregon (5), Pennsylvania (6), Rhode Island (3), Tennessee (6), Utah (2), Virginia (22), Vermont (1), Washington (5), Wisconsin (6), and the District of Columbia (1). At least 76 people have been hospitalized, and the CDC says that Salmonella may have also contributed to the death of a Texas cancer patient.

The CDC says that most of the illnesses were reported between mid-April and June 13, 2008. Because the CDC is continuing to receive reports of illnesses, the Salmonella outbreak is considered to be ongoing.

To avoid illness, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is advising consumers to limit their tomato consumption to those that are not the likely source of this outbreak. These include cherry tomatoes; grape tomatoes; tomatoes sold with the vine still attached; tomatoes grown at home; and red plum, red Roma, and round red tomatoes from specific sources listed on the agency’s website.

Salmonella is a potentially deadly type of food poisoning, symptoms of which include fever, abdominal pain, nausea, gas and bloody diarrhea. Symptoms appear within 36 hours of exposure, and usually last four to seven days. In very severe cases, Salmonella can lead to kidney failure and other complications. Salmonella can be particularly dangerous for children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Some victims of Salmonella will develop a disease called Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult- to- treat condition that causes severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. Reiter’s Syndrome can plague its victims for months or years, and can lead to chronic arthritis.

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