A salmonella poisoning outbreak that has sickened 73 people and may have caused at least one death, has been linked to a strain of the bacteria sold commercially to microbiology laboratories throughout the United States.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections that have surfaced since last August, may be caused from bacteria used in clinical and teaching laboratories.
Many of the illnesses have been reported among students and employees working in microbiology labs, or among family members who may have been exposed when Salmonella Typhimurium bacteria was carried home on clothing, pens, keys or other items that were used in the laboratories.
At least 10 people have been hospitalized as part of the outbreak, and it may have contributed to the death for a 91-year-old man in a Boston chronic care center, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. However, the man suffered from a number of other illnesses and no connection has been found between him and a microbiology lab.
The CDC has been working with health departments from 35 states, the American Society for Microbiology and the Association of Public Health Laboratories to investigate the outbreak. The organizations conducted a survey of laboratory directors, managers and faculty at microbiology laboratories use for both clinical and teaching purposes. The survey helped identify areas where safety training could help prevent future outbreaks.
The CDC released the following advice for students and workers at microbiology laboratories:
- Be aware that bacteria can be brought home on lab coats, pens, and other items used in the lab
- Wash hands frequently while working in the lab and immediately after leaving, and follow proper hand washing practices
- Do not bring food, drink or personal items into the laboratory
- Wear protective clothing, like a lab coat, over personal clothing while working in a lab. Remove that clothing and leave it in the laboratory before leaving non-laboratory areas
- Watch for symptoms of salmonella poisoning, such as diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, if you work in a laboratory that works with Salmonella bacteria.