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Salmonella Outbreak Tied to Papaya Over, Says CDC

Food Safety News

by News Desk | Aug 30, 2011

Seven more patients with illness onset dates from late July brought the total number of papaya-related Salmonella Agona victims to 106 before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closed out its report on the outbreak.

"This particular outbreak appears to be over," said the CDC on Monday, adding: "Salmonella remains an important cause of human illness in the United States."

On July 23, Agromod Produce Inc. of McAllen, TX announced a recall of all its fresh whole papayas sold before that date, but the first confirmed illnesses in the outbreak came as long ago as on or before last Jan. 17, the CDC says.

CDC's final report on the outbreak says people who became ill ranged in age from one to 91 years of age. The median age of the victims was 21 and 39 percent were under 5. Eleven reported travel to Mexico in the week before they became ill, and 10 required hospitalization.

Two states -- Indiana and Kentucky -- each added one case to the outbreak and brought the total number of states reporting illnesses to 25.

Since Aug. 25, all fresh whole Mexican papaya has been detained at the U.S. border unless the importer can show they are free from Salmonella contamination. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found Salmonella on 15.6 percent of papaya samples from 28 different firms and nearly all growing areas in Mexico.

In the report, CDC hints that an outbreak last year might also have involved papaya or some other fresh fruit, but nothing was ever proved.

"The strain of Salmonella Agona associated with this outbreak is composed of four closely related PFGE patterns that have been rarely identified before in PulseNet," says the report. "Three of these four PFGE patterns were first identified beginning in 2010. A total of 119 cases from 14 states were reported between May 28, 2010, and September 10, 2010.

"Distribution of age, sex, ethnicity, and state of residence among ill persons was similar to the distribution seen in the current outbreak. Despite an intensive investigation during the summer of 2010 by local, state, and federal public health agencies that focused on fresh fruit, including papaya, the source of the outbreak was not determined."

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