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Salmonella outbreak infects hundreds in the US amid government shutdown

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278 reported cases across 18 states test defunct government's response


A public health alert has been issued by the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in relation to chicken produced at three Foster Farms facilities. Some 278 reported cases of Salmonella Heidelberg infections have been linked to poultry coming from those farms, affecting people in 18 states. The bulk of those are in California, which is the main distribution area for the chicken in question, along with the states of Oregon and Washington.

What's unusual about this outbreak — described as "still ongoing" by the FSIS – is that it's taking place during a self-imposed US government shutdown. The US Department of Agriculture website that hosts the health alert is only partially available "due to the lapse in federal government funding," while the FSIS sub-site is "available but is not being regularly updated." The situation on the web is reflected on the ground, where a reduced staff is still carrying out inspections, but coordinating a cross-state response is now much trickier. An official from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Wired that his organization "will not be conducting multi-state outbreak investigations."

You may want to stick to root vegetables and beans for a while

Foster Farms actually had the same issue in July of this year, though the numbers were smaller and the US federal government was fully staffed to deal with the outbreak. Typical symptoms of salmonella infection — which is an invasion of your gut by malignant bacteria — include diarrhea, abdominal pains, vomiting, and fever, though most people recover within a week without specific treatment.