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Salmonella Outbreak in U.S. Linked To ‘Whole, Fresh’ Papayas Imported From Mexico

Papaya for sale at the Upper Eastside Green Market. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A salmonella outbreak in the U.S. has been linked to whole, fresh papayas imported from Mexico, the CDC and FDA said in an announcement.

The public health and regulatory officials warned the public not to eat, serve or sell the papayas or food that contains papaya from Mexico in the following six states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Sixty-two people have fallen ill in eight states: Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas, the CDC said. Twenty-three people have been hospitalized.

Most of the sick people in this outbreak are adults over 60 years old, the CDC said. The illnesses began on dates ranging from Jan. 14, 2019 to June 8, 2019.

No deaths have been reported so far. The CDC recommends that people throw the papayas from Mexico away, even if some of them have been eaten or if no one has gotten sick yet. The center also advises people wash and sanitize places where papayas were stored: countertops and refrigerator drawers or shelves.

Around 80 percent of U.S. papayas come from Mexican production, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The FDA “strongly advises” importers, suppliers and distributors, as well as restaurants, retailers and other food service providers from all states to hold whole, fresh papayas imported from Mexico.

Salmonella are a group of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness and fever called salmonellosis, according to the FDA. Around 12-72 hours after eating food contaminated with salmonella, most infected people develop diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, the CDC said. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.

But in some people, the illness may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized, as salmonella could spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body. “More severe cases of salmonellosis may include a high fever, aches, headaches, lethargy, a rash, blood in the urine or stool, and in some cases may become fatal,” the FDA said.

Those more likely to have a severe salmonella illness include: children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, adults 65 years and older, according to the CDC. Two years ago, there was another salmonella outbreak linked to papayas from Mexico. On March 17, 2017, the FDA investigated an outbreak and the CDC reported 20 cases in 3 states with 5 hospitalizations and 1 death.

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