Salmonella is lots of fun. Human infection usually involves fever, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Salmonella infections are reasonably common, especially food-borne outbreaks. It’s unknown exactly how many people in the U.S. suffer from salmonellosis each year since many probably never seek medical care or never have a stool culture done. The CDC gets approximately 40K reports of salmonella in the U.S. each year with about 400 deaths (the real case number is estimated to be closer to 1.4 million). Most of these cases are preventable.
There are two large outbreaks currently under investigation by the CDC. The first is a bit odd. It involves frogs.
For the last thirty-five years it has been illegal to sell pet turtles with a shell length of less then 4 inches. This size was rather arbitrarily chosen as being just too darned cute and susceptible to being kissed. The ban has been relatively effective; the CDC estimates that it has prevented around 200K infections since 1975.
But salmonella isn’t just for reptiles. The CDC is currently investigating a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infection traceable to pet frogs. These cute little guys swim around in aquariums filling the water with salmonella. When kids reach in to the water…well, you get the idea. The CDC is now reminding us that amphibians, like reptiles, can make you sick.
The second outbreak is food-related (assuming you don’t consider aquatic frogs to be “food”). Nearly 200 people across the country have been confirmed infected with a common strain of salmonella (“Montevideo”). The CDC is on it, though. They talked to thirty-nine sick people and thirty-nine controls and found that the sick people were significantly more likely to have eaten salami, and several of them had eaten salami from a single manufacturer. Because of the strong preliminary data, the company has issued a voluntary food recall.
Many Americans are aware that raw eggs and chicken can be sources of salmonella-related illness and take active steps to avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen. I doubt many Americans put a lot of thought into frogs and salami. In fact, I doubt many Americans have encountered a sentence with the words “frog” and “salami” in them. Until now.