Health investigators say they have traced an outbreak of salmonella food poisoning to papayas from Mexico, which have sickened at least 62 people nationwide.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a food safety alert June 28, warning about the multi-state papayas salmonella outbreak, which has lead to nearly two dozen hospitalizations and impacted consumers in at least eight different states.
The CDC and health officials in several states have determined that the outbreak is linked to tainted papayas imported from Mexico, with food poisoning cases reported in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas.
As a result of the wide ranging impact, CDC officials are warning consumers nationwide not to eat, serve, or sell whole or fresh papayas that were imported from Mexico, as well as other foods that contains papaya.
Most people sickened in the outbreak are adults over 60 years old, as older adults may be more susceptible to the salmonella infections. People have become ill from January 14, 2019, through June 8, 2019, but most of the cases have surfaced since April.
The hospitalization rate in this outbreak is 66%, according to the CDC, which is more than three times higher than the typical rate seen with other salmonella outbreaks.
Most people infected with salmonella will develop diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days and most people recover without needing medical treatment. Some people experience more severe symptoms, such as high fever or vomiting, and may require medical attention or hospitalization.
In some severe cases, the infection can spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and to other places int he body. Young children, pregnant women, adults over 65, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to experience serious illness after becoming infected.
Consumers in affected states should not eat fresh or whole papayas, including foods that contain papayas like fruit salads or smoothies.
If a person has purchased papayas from Mexico which may be affected by the outbreak, the papayas should be thrown away, even if some have been eaten and no one has become sick, the CDC recommends.
If you are unsure whether the papaya came from Mexico, either ask the retailer where you purchased the papaya or simply throw the papaya away.
Always make sure to wash and sanitize areas where the fruit was stored, cut, and prepared.
The salmonella outbreak investigation connected to the tainted papayas is ongoing and the CDC will provide more information as it becomes available. To date, the CDC has not identified a specific product or distributor and no recall has been announced.