Post by Allison Aubrey, The Salt at NPR Food (10/8/13)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a health alert warning that an estimated 278 illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg are associated with raw chicken produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says illnesses have been reported in 17 states, with the vast majority — 78 percent — in California. The outbreak is ongoing, so it's possible that people are still being sickened by the chicken.
The CDC says about 42 percent of the people who've gotten sick (among those for whom information is available) have been hospitalized. The strains of Salmonella Heidelberg that have made people sick are resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. And according to the CDC, the resistance may increase the risk of hospitalization or make the illness tougher to treat.
News of the outbreak has gotten a lot of attention since it comes during the federal government shutdown. Many stories have raised the specter that no one's on the job at a critical time. But the USDA tells The Salt that its work has not been at all slowed down — since its inspectors and investigators have stayed on the job.