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CDC on the lookout for source of salmonella outbreak

Wednesday - 4/4/2012, 7:48pm  ET

John Aaron,

WASHINGTON - The Centers for Disease Control is looking for a culprit after a salmonella outbreak sickened 93 people in 19 states and the District.

And the culprit could be sushi.

Since late January, eight people in Maryland, five in Virginia and two in the District have become sick. Only ten people nationwide have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.

In its release, the CDC is not blaming any food at this point, and it is not advising consumers to avoid any specific foods or restaurants -- but it does say many of those who got sick reported eating sushi or sashimi in the week leading up to their illness.

Alvina Chu, chief of the Division of Outbreak Investigation at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, says none of the eight Marylanders have been hospitalized. A memo distributed to FDA staff Tuesday morning showed seven hospitalizations nationally, and no deaths.

The memo also referenced restaurants in Maryland, as well as in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Texas and Wisconsin, as possible sources of the bacteria.

"We do have some cases that have eaten at some common restaurants [in Maryland]," Chu says.

She says that while nothing is conclusive, part of their investigation involves "tracing back" to see where restaurants received certain ingredients. Since it often takes about three weeks for the state Department of Health to learn about symptoms after they occur, more cases could still be reported.

No restaurants in the District have been implicated in the outbreak, says Najma Roberts, spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Health.

Symptoms of Salmonella infections include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Most people recover without treatment, but older adults, infants, and those with impaired immune systems could become severely ill.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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