PORTLAND, Ore. — Dozens of Salmonella cases in the state of Oregon have been traced back to red onions produced by a California company, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
State officials are urging people not to eat onions from Thomson International, Inc., of Bakersfield, California, after 76 people in 13 Oregon counties fell ill with matching strains of Salmonella bacteria.
Eighteen of those individuals have been hospitalized, though none have died.
Epidemiologists at the OHA Public Health Division say the Oregon cases are part of an outbreak that has sickened more than 400 people in about 40 states as well as consumers in Canada.
Public health officials in the U.S. and Canda were able to trace the cases back to red onions from the California company. Although red onions are considered "the likely source," OHA said that Thomson has agreed to recall all onions that could have been cross-contaminated with the bacteria.
"People who believe they’ve gotten diarrhea from consuming red onions might want to contact a health care provider," said Dr. Emilio DeBess, an epidemiologist at the Oregon Public Health Division Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section. "However, most people with salmonellosis will recover without antibiotics."
Anyone who has eaten red onions but has not gotten ill does not need to notify their healthcare provider.
"If you have any of these potentially contaminated onions, discard them and wash your hands afterwards," said Dr. DeBess.
OHA said that between 400 and 500 cases of salmonellosis are reported in Oregon every year. Most people infected with the bacteria develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps one to seven days after exposure. The illness usually lasts four to seven days.
Although most people recover without treatment, some have severe infections. Infants, elderly people and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop severe illness, OHA said. Salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites and, in rare cases, can be deadly.