Salmonella food poisoning from raw tomatoes has spread to 16 states, causing U.S. health officials to speculate that the outbreak might be nationwide, the Associated Press reports.
The infestation first began in Texas and New Mexico in mid-April, the wire service said. The latest statistics from those two states' health departments put the number of cases at 56 in Texas and 55 in New Mexico to raw, uncooked, tomatoes.
And an additional 50 people are suspected to have been poisoned with the Saintpaul strain of salmonella bacterium, the A.P. said, leading a spokesperson from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to tell the wire service that the rarity of that strain and the number of illnesses "suggest that implicated tomatoes are distributed throughout the country."
At least 23 people have been hospitalized but there have been no deaths among the patients who range in age between 1 and 82, CDC spokesperson Arleen Porcell told the A.P.
In addition to Texas and New Mexico, the Saintpaul salmonella infection has been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, according to the CDC.
Consumers are warned not to buy any raw tomatoes except cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and homegrown tomatoes, the wire service reported.
Salmonella bacteria are usually transmitted to humans when they eat food contaminated with animal feces. Symptoms include fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Most people recover without treatment, but salmonella infection can cause serious health problems or death in infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.