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Salmonella superbug linked to beef and soft cheese has sickened 255 people, CDC warns 

Antibiotic resistant salmonella linked to beef and soft cheese has sickened 255 people, CDC warns

  • A new strain of antibiotic resistant salmonella is sickening people in the US and Mexico
  • 255 infections and 60 hospitalizations have been reported to the CDC 
  • In the US, officials suspect the outbreak can be traced to beef 
  • Soft cheese imported from Mexico is also a likely culprit 
  • Salmonella is a leading cause of stomach flu killing some 450 Americans a year 

A strain of antibiotic resistant salmonella linked to beef and salmonella is infecting people in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Thursday. 

So far, 255 people have fallen ill and at least 60 have been hospitalized.

For most people, salmonella – typically ingested when they eat contaminated poultry beef or eggs – is no more than a stomach bug, but severe cases can be fatal without antibiotic treatment and lots of fluids.  

One of the commonly recommended antibiotics for treating these more serious cases is azithromycin. 

But the strain involved in the current outbreak does not appear to be very responsive to the commonly relied-upon antibiotic, the CDC said. 

A salmonella outbreak linked to beef and soft cheese has sickened 255 people including 60 who have been hospitalized for severe infections – a third of which may be antibiotic resistant

Salmonella outbreaks are commonplace in the US and abroad, usually reaching humans after ingesting contaminated foods or when we’ve come into contact with infected animals. 

The infection spreads when humans accidentally ingest bits of fecal matter containing salmonella bacteria from unwashed produce or meat prepared in unclean environments. 

For a typical adult, the infection is relatively mild aside from unpleasant symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills and headache. 

But those with weakened immune systems, young children and the elderly, it can do much more damage. 

These people may have pain in their joints and severe diarrhea that results in serious dehydration – the latter of which can prove deadly. 

Eventually, the infection can work its way into the bloodstream if left untreated and attack all manner of tissues, like the brain and spinal cord, the heart, bone marrow and the lining of blood vessels themselves.

Common though salmonella outbreaks are, these complications are quite rare. 

And fortunately, the invention of antibiotics has made even the worst cases treatable in most instances.  

The advent of antibiotic resistance is jeopardizing that comfort, however.  

As bacteria are exposed more and more to the drug meant to kill them off, the strongest – the ones that antibiotics aren’t an exact match for for – survive and multiply, effectively ‘learning’ how to beat the drug. 

Over-prescription of antibiotics to humans as well as overuse to preventively treat livestock are widely blamed for the surging development of antibiotic resistance. 

It’s not a pattern seen often with salmonella – so the decreased effectiveness of azithromycin against the latest outbreak is a cause for some concern. 

Antibiotic treatment was ineffective or only partially effective for a third of patients. 

The same strain of salmonella caused an outbreak linked to Mexican cattle in 2016, and most of the seriously ill patients had eaten both beef (thought to be American-sourced) and soft cheese (sourced from Mexico) and had recently traveled to Mexico. 

The added risk of antibiotic resitance underscores the importance that consumers store beef in well-refrigerated, sanitary conditions and cook it thoroughly. 

Additionally, the CDC is advising that soft cheeses made with raw milk be avoided during the outbreak.