A total of 22 cases of Salmonella have been reported in San Diego County in connection with a multi-state outbreak linked to a tainted Foster Farms chicken product.
According to the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA), nearly two dozen cases of the illness – specifically Salmonella Heidelberg – have been locally reported thus far.
Including this figure, the HHSA says there have been 354 cases of Salmonellosis reported in San Diego this year, which is within the expected range of cases at this point in the year.
The HHSA says that on average, 324 cases have been reported in the county at this point annually over the past three years.
San Diego County's Deputy Public Health Officer, Eric McDonald, said the number of Salmonella cases reported locally isn’t completely startling.
What is unique, however, is that the Salmonella in this outbreak is the type that is resistant to antibiotics and twice as likely to lead to hospitalization.
What’s more, McDonald says kids and men make up the highest number of Salmonella victims in San Diego County.
McDonald says that in chicken, Salmonella is on the skin. That’s why proper preparation is important. He says it’s important to fully cook chicken to at least 165-degrees Fahrenheit.
“Another thing that the public is often confused about is it doesn't help to rinse the poultry in the sink to get rid of the external bacteria contamination, actually, that's more likely to spread the bacteria around your kitchen than it is to help you be safer,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this particular Salmonella outbreak spans 20 states and Puerto Rico.
As of Friday, the CDC reports that a total of 317 people have been infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg in connection with the Foster Farms chicken product.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a health warning to consumers regarding the chicken.
The tainted product bears the following USDA inspection marks: P6137, P6137A and P7632.
A family in Chula Vista told KNBC they became sick last week from eating the tainted poultry product.
"I started feeling violently ill. I had to constantly run to the bathroom, and I thought I had the stomach flu,” Jim Blair said.
La Mesa resident Larry Thomas told NBC 7 he purchased some of the chicken in question at a Costco store in La Mesa. When he checked the plant code on the packaging, he realized the product was part of the chicken included in the USDA health warning.
"Looks like we got some bad chicken," said Thomas.
As of Friday, the CDC said 42 percent of the ill persons who contracted salmonella in this outbreak have been hospitalized. Most of those ill persons – 73 percent, to be exact – are California residents.
The CDC says no deaths have been reported.
Meanwhile, a Foster Farms spokesman said the infections were caused by eating undercooked or improperly handled chicken.
The CDC has compiled a list for consumers about the proper ways to handle meat poultry or chicken products. It includes these four basic tips: clean, separate, cook and chill. To read the full list, click here.