For the sixth time in eight years, papayas grown in Mexico have been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are warning consumers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island to avoid eating any fresh papayas from Mexico until further notice.
No recall has been announced.
CDC reports 62 cases of Salmonella Uganda illnesses, including 23 hospitalizations, in eight states: Connecticut (14), Florida (1), Massachusetts (5), New Jersey (12), New York (24), Pennsylvania (4), Rhode Island (1), and Texas (1).
No deaths have been reported.
According to FDA, most people with salmonellosis develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. 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.
Children younger than five, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe salmonellosis infections.
By the numbers
Epidemiological evidence gathered by CDC, and product distribution information obtained by FDA, point to papayas grown in Mexico and distributed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
Just over one-half of the victims are female, and approximately two-thirds of those interviewed are of Hispanic ethnicity. Ages of outbreak victims range from one to 86 years.
Of those victims who were interviewed, 76% reported having eaten papaya in the week before becoming ill.
The Florida victim reported having traveled to Connecticut in the week before becoming ill. It is unknown at this time whether the Texas victim had traveled to one of the six states to which the papayas were shipped.
FDA has not yet identified a source or grower of the contaminated papayas.
This is the sixth in a series of Salmonella outbreaks linked to papayas grown in Mexico and imported into the USA in the last eight years.
In 2011, Mexican papayas contaminated with Salmonella Agona were the source of a 25-state outbreak that sickened 106 individuals, sending 10 of them to hospital.
In 2017, history repeated itself four-fold. A total of 251 individuals were infected with one of several different strains of Salmonella after eating Mexico-grown papayas. Seventy-eight of the outbreak victims were hospitalized and two people died.
If history is any guide, it is likely that the number of cases and hospitalizations in this outbreak will increase.
What should consumers do?
- If you have purchased a papaya grown in Mexico, throw it away.
- Do not eat fruit salads or other mixes that include papayas from Mexico.
- If you aren’t sure the papaya you bought is from Mexico, you can ask the place of purchase. When in doubt, don’t eat the papaya. Throw it out.
- Wash and sanitize places where papayas were stored: countertops and refrigerator drawers or shelves. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
What should restaurants and retailers do?
In the event that restaurants, retailers and/or other food service operators are found to have handled potentially contaminated food in their facilities, they should:
- Contact their local health department and communicate to their customers regarding possible exposure to a pathogen.
- Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops, and utensils that may have contacted contaminated foods; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
- Wash and sanitize display cases and surfaces used to potentially store, serve, or prepare potentially contaminated foods.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
- Conduct regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing to help minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.
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