The salmonella outbreak that has sickened almost 300 people in 18 states appears to involve much tougher strains of the disease than usual, according to some of the few Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers still on the job. The illness, traced to raw chicken from California, has put at least 42% of the victims in the hospital, more than double the proportion in previous salmonella outbreaks, and the strains are proving resistant to multiple kinds of antibiotics. The outbreak hasn't killed anybody yet, but almost a third of those hospitalized have salmonella septicemia—a potentially deadly whole-body inflammation.
The CDC, which had trouble tracking the outbreak because of the government shutdown, called some employees back to work after determining that there was an imminent threat to public health. "This outbreak shows that it is a terrible time for government public health officials to be locked out of their offices and labs, and for government websites to go dark," a spokesman tells USA Today. An alert has been issued for chicken packaged at one of three Foster Farms operations in California with a USDA mark of P6137, P6137A, or P7632 and authorities say that as always, it is important to cook chicken thoroughly and to be careful when handling raw chicken. (Read more salmonella stories.)