This Salmonella Outbreak Has Made 650 People Sick—Check Your Produce Now

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Salmonella is one of the most common bacterias that can affect you through the food you eat. While this bacteria can be found in many different foods—including vegetables, eggs, chicken, pork, and fruit—it's unlikely you'll know that your food has been contaminated, as these foods typically "look and smell normal," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency reports that every year, Salmonella causes around 1.35 million illnesses, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the U.S. And now one popular item of produce has led to a salmonella outbreak that has already made more than 650 people sick, prompting a nationwide warning from the CDC. Read on to find out what you should be checking for in your kitchen.

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A salmonella outbreak has been linked to several imported onions.

The CDC released a food safety alert on Oct. 20, warning consumers about an ongoing salmonella outbreak linked to onions. The affected onions are fresh whole red, white, and yellow onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, and distributed by ProSource Inc. According to the notice, this outbreak has already made 652 people sick and resulted in 129 hospitalizations. So far, no deaths from the outbreak have been reported by the CDC.

"The FDA, along with the CDC and our state and local partners, is working to investigate a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Oranienburg infections linked to whole, fresh onions," Frank Yiannas, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response, said in a statement posted Oct. 20."The FDA's traceback investigation is ongoing but has identified ProSource Inc. (also known as ProSource Produce, LLC) of Hailey, Idaho as a source of potentially contaminated whole, fresh onions imported from the State of Chihuahua, Mexico."

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The CDC is urging people to check their produce.

According to the CDC's data, this outbreak has been ongoing since the end of May, but most illnesses have occurred in late August and throughout September. ProSource Inc. says that affected onions were last imported on Aug. 27, but the CDC warns that "these imported onions can last up to three months in storage and may still be in homes and businesses."

The CDC says that affected onions will have stickers or packaging indicating the brand (ProSource Inc.) and the country (Mexico) where they were grown. If you have these onions at home, you should not eat them and throw them away. "Wash surfaces and containers these onions may have touched using hot soapy water or a dishwasher," the agency adds.

At the same time, if you have onions in your home and you are not sure where they came from, the CDC says not to take any chances. "Throw away any unlabeled onions at home," the agency warned in an Oct. 20 tweet. Do not buy affected onions or onions with an unclear origin at the grocery store right now either.

Certain states have been more affected than others.

The CDC says that the affected onions were sold to restaurants and grocery stores throughout the U.S., with the highest number of illnesses so far being reported in Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Oklahoma. Some of the other states reporting illnesses include Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, New York, and Massachusetts.

So far, the CDC has called out 37 states in relation to this salmonella outbreak, but the agency warns that this might not be the true number of states affected. "Recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes three to four weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak. The true number of sick people in an outbreak is also likely much higher than the number reported," the CDC notes.

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Contact your doctor right away if you experience any severe salmonella poisoning symptoms.

If you are infected with Salmonella, you are likely to experience diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps, according to the CDC. These symptoms will usually arise anywhere between six hours to six days after you have ingested the bacteria. Fortunately, the CDC says most people recover from their illness without treatment within four to seven days, but if you notice any severe salmonella poisoning symptoms, you should call your doctor immediately.

Severe symptoms include diarrhea and a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, diarrhea for more than three days that is not improving, bloody diarrhea, excess vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down, and signs of dehydration such as reduced urination, dry mouth and throat, and dizziness when standing up.

"Some people—especially children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems—may experience more severe illnesses that require medical treatment or hospitalization," the CDC warns.

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