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Salmonella bacteria found in Foster Farms chicken in Washington and Oregon

OLYMPIA, Wash. Foster Farms chicken has been linked to an outbreak of salmonella poisoning in Washington and Oregon.

The Oregon Health Authority said there were 43 cases last year in Oregon, and the Washington Health Department said there were at least 56 linked to a specific strain of the bacteria called salmonella Heidelberg. There were no deaths.

Salmonelloisis is an infection caused by the Salmonella bacteria, which has existed for more than 100 years. There are about 42,000 cases of salmonellosis each year in the U.S., but because many cases go unreported it may be 29 or more times higher according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Salmonella is common on all chicken, not just Foster Farms products, and cross contamination is possible, for example, if salad lettuce touches the same cutting board as raw chicken.

Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. Illness normally lasts four to seven days, and most patients recover without any additional treatment, although it could take a few months before bowel function is completely normal. In some cases, patients can develop reactive arthritis or pain in their joints, irritation of the eyes and painful urination. Reactive arthritis can last for quite some time and develop into chronic arthritis.

There are cases that the infection is so severe that the person may become hospitalized because the bacteria has spread from the intestines to the blood stream and other parts of the body. These rare cases typically happen to the elderly and infants those with impaired immune systems.

Foster Farms says in a statement that safety and quality are priorities. There is no recall.

Both health departments said Thursday the illnesses are a reminder to consumers to take care in handling and cooking chickens.

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