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  • At least 279 people have contracted salmonella infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • At least 26 people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
  • CDC experts think the outbreak may actually be much larger than what’s been reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning of a fast-growing Salmonella outbreak that has been detected in 29 states.

It’s unclear what’s causing the Salmonella Oranienburg infections, but multiple cases have been traced back to restaurants.

As of Sept. 21, 279 people have contracted an infection, according to an update released by the CDC.

Twenty-six people have been hospitalized. There have been no deaths.

The CDC suspects the case count is much higher but is being underreported since so many people who contract a salmonella infection recover at home without medical care.

It typically takes 3 to 4 weeks for health officials to determine whether a salmonella infection is part of a larger outbreak.

To determine the cause of these recent infections, state health officials have been interviewing people sick with a salmonella infection about the foods they ate and restaurants they visited.

Many of the cases have been traced back to the same restaurant, which could help health officials identify the source of the outbreak.

As of Sept. 21, 279 people from 29 states have contracted an infection with the outbreak strain of Salmonella.

The bulk of these cases, 81, have been reported in Texas. Oklahoma follows with 40 cases.

Illinois, Minnesota, Virginia, and Massachusetts have seen between 10 and 25 cases.

Dr. Louis Morledge, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that the CDC looks at patterns of reported infections and outbreaks across the country.

The agency partners with local health agencies to identify clusters of illnesses. More research is then conducted to identify potential sources.

The bacteria causing the infections undergo whole genome sequencing by the CDC, according to Dr. Michael Lin, an associate professor of internal medicine with the division of infectious diseases at Rush University Medical Center.

“This type of genetic fingerprinting allows public health to identify infections that could be linked to a common source, such as a contaminated food product,” Lin said.

According to Morledge, salmonella infections are typically more common during summer months.

“Warmer weather and unrefrigerated foods create ideal conditions for Salmonella to grow,” Morledge said.

Careful preparation and storage of food is crucial.

All perishable food items should be refrigerated or frozen. And all foods should be cooked thoroughly before consumption.

Lin said eating anything uncooked or undercooked runs the risk of being contaminated with Salmonella.

“Eating cooked food is generally safer when eating at restaurants,” Lin said.

Salmonella causes diarrhea, and most people recover at home. But some people may develop more severe illness and require antibiotics or hospitalization.

How sick a person gets depends on a few factors.

“It may have to do with the initial quantity consumed of the food source and the amount of bacteria it contained,” Morledge said.

The person’s immune system status also likely plays a role, along with their body’s ability to digest and eradicate the infection.

People with compromised immune systems or underlying health issues may have more severe reactions to the bacteria.

In certain instances, salmonella infections can become life threatening if left untreated.

“For people with severe infection or in people at high risk for severe infection, antibiotics are warranted. With proper management and early diagnosis, most patients have a full recovery,” Lin said.

Anyone experiencing prolonged diarrhea and fever should contact a healthcare professional immediately.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued warning of a fast-growing Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 279 people across 29 states.

The source of the outbreak is unknown, but health officials are actively investigating clusters of infections.

Most people with a salmonella infection recover at home, but those with more severe illness may require antibiotics or hospitalization.