The Centers for Disease Control announced Thursday that it was investigating a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella in alfalfa sprouts, with 89 reports of a matching strain across 15 states and the District of Columbia.
Preliminary results of the CDC investigation indicate a link to eating alfalfa sprouts at a national sandwich chain, the agency said.
The CDC said there were reports of 50 cases in Illinois, 14 in Missouri, and nine in Indiana. Among the 81 people for whom information was available, the CDC said the start of their illnesses ranged from Nov. 1 to Dec. 14, and ranged in age from 1 to 75 years old, with a median age of 28.
Of the information available, the CDC said that 23 percent of the people affected were hospitalized, with no deaths reported.
The CDC said that because the pattern associated with this salmonella type commonly occurred in the U.S., some cases currently identified might not be related to the outbreak.
The outbreak first was called to attention last Friday when the Illinois Department of Public Health reported more than 40 people saying they had become ill after eating alfalfa sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants. The IDPH’s update Thursday raised the count to 50 confirmed Illinois residents and one Wisconsin resident, with reports stretching over 11 counties in the state.
Jimmy John’s kept the sprouts on the menu until Tuesday night, when Cary native and chain owner Jimmy John Liautaud asked Illinois franchises to take them off the menu as a precautionary measure. In a letter to franchises, Liautaud said the chain was working with state and federal officials to track the cause of the outbreak, and that reports of illnesses had come in from 15 states.
The CDC said the time between a person becoming ill and when the illness is reported could be two to three weeks, so more cases might be in the works. Public health officials have been interviewing people with illnesses to gain information.
Public health officials in multiple states have been interviewing ill people to obtain information regarding foods they might have eaten and other exposures in the week prior to illness.
The CDC said the investigation was ongoing, and the agency would continue to monitor new cases, along with the Food and Drug Administration and state and local public health partners.