An antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella bacteria found in raw chicken has sickened 92 people in 29 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Of those 92 people, 21 have been hospitalized, although no one has died from the bacteria. Salmonella generally causes vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps about 12 to 72 hours after it is ingested.
Usually people recover in about a week without treatment, but it can cause serious infections in some people that require antibiotics and other treatments. People under age 5 or over 65, and those with weakened immune systems, are at greatest risk for serious salmonella infections.
The strain in the outbreak, called salmonella infantis, appears to be resistant to multiple antibiotics, which may make it harder to treat in those severe cases. It doesn’t respond to common antibiotics used to treat those infections, such as ciprofloxacin and ceftriaxone, but can be treated with other antibiotics, like azithromycin, the CDC said.
The strain has been found in live chickens and a variety of raw chicken products, “indicating it might be widespread in the chicken industry,” according to a statement from the CDC.
The CDC is not recommending that people stop eating chicken if it’s properly cooked. The federal agency is also not recalling or asking retailers to stop selling raw chicken products.
No specific raw chicken products or retailers have been identified in the outbreak, which is being monitored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the CDC said.
Health experts are recommending that you make sure to handle raw chicken in ways that help prevent the spread of germs. For example, don’t wash raw chicken before cooking, because it can spread bacteria to other surfaces; don’t reuse utensils or cutting boards used for raw food to prepare other types of food; and make sure to wash your hands with warm water and soap after handling raw meat.
It’s also important to cook chicken thoroughly. “Chicken breasts, whole chickens, and ground poultry, including chicken burgers and chicken sausage, should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill harmful germs,” the CDC said. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature in the thickest part of the meat, and heat any leftovers to that temperature as well.
To keep pets safe, don’t feed them a raw diet, the CDC said.
If you think you may have gotten sick from salmonella or are concerned about symptoms like a high fever (over 101.5°F), bloody diarrhea, or vomiting so severe you can’t keep liquids down, the CDC recommends you contact your health care provider.