At least 75 Illinois residents have been diagnosed with a rare form of salmonella after eating at various Subway restaurants, a number that has been climbing since the outbreak was first discovered earlier this week.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) first reported the outbreak on June 7, when 48 cases of salmonella serotype Hvittingfoss were announced. Of those cases, 17 were hospitalized and all were recovering. The illnesses are reported to have started between between May 11 and May 25, and the ages of confirmed victims range from 2 to 79. The salmonella involved in the outbreak is an unusual variety, of which only one or two cases a year are reported in Illinois.
A specific food source has yet to be identified with this outbreak. The Illinois Department of Public health says it is working closely with the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Subway restaurant chain and local health departments throughout the state to identify the source of illness.
"We are aware of the investigation currently being conducted by the State of Illinois Department of Public Health and are cooperating fully as they attempt to pinpoint the exact product in question and its origin," Subway spokesman Les Winograd said in a statement sent to Consumer Ally.
"Although there has been no positive or confirmed association with a specific product, the Subway restaurant chain has voluntarily withdrawn all lettuce, green peppers, red onion and tomatoes, from the suspected dates from its restaurants and has replaced the product with new, fresh produce. The Subway brand will continue to work with the Department of Public Health to assist in pinpointing the exact cause of the outbreak," Winograd added.
Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and/or stomach cramps. The illness usually develops within 6 to 72 hours after being exposed to Salmonella bacteria and generally lasts three to seven days. Some infected individuals do not experience any symptoms, but may still transmit the Salmonella bacteria to others. The spread of salmonella from person to person may be avoided by careful hand washing with soap and water, particularly after using the restroom.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 400 deaths a year are attributed to the more than 40,000 cases of salmonellosis reported annually in the U.S. A recent salmonella outbreak in 10 states resulted in a nationwide recall of alfalfa sprouts.
This isn't the first salmonella outbreak blamed on the world's largest sandwich chain, which operates more than 3,300 restaurants in 92 countries. In 2008, 120 Subway customers in the United Kingdom and Ireland contracted salmonella from tainted meat, an outbreak that also left one person dead.
On June 10, The Law Group Ltd. announced an investigation into the first statewide class action suit against Subway on behalf of all residents of Illinois who allegedly sustained injuries associated with Salmonella bacteria after eating a Subway sandwich.
Confirmed cases have reported eating at Subway restaurants located in 23 Illinois counties: Bureau, Cass, Champaign, Christian, Coles, DeWitt, Fulton, Knox, LaSalle, Macon, Marshall, Mclean, Moultrie, Ogle, Peoria, Sangamon, Schuyler, Shelby, Tazewell, Vermilion, Warren, Winnebago and Will.
The Department of Health encourages anyone experiencing illness after eating at Subway restaurants in Illinois on or after May 10, 2010 to contact their health care provider or local health department. The IDPH is providing updated information on the outbreak on its website every weekday at 10am (CST).
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