The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) has identified a cluster of salmonella illnesses. The announcement was made in Boston, Massachusetts, but implicates illnesses in more than one state, this according to health officials from MDPH. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also looking for the source of the outbreak, which by definition is more than one illness in a “cluster” that is linked together by careful analysis of the salmonella bacteria taken from each victim (traditionally collected from stool samples or blood cultures). In this case, following standard protocol, cases of food borne illness were identified, sent for laboratory testing, and when salmonella was isolated theses specimens were then sent to state and local health agencies and, ultimately, a PulseNet laboratory (the PulseNet network comprises 87 laboratories located throughout the U.S., with at least one laboratory in each state). These laboratories are capable of sophisticated analysis that can determine which salmonella bacteria have the same “DNA fingerprint” using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) cluster. As in this case, investigators are then able to identify which cases of salmonella food poisoning come form a single source.
The MDPH and the FDA, along with an unknown number of other state health agencies, are now in the process of interviewing confirmed and potential victims to identify a common food source. The FDA and the MDPH, according to one Boston area news outlet, have stated that they will quickly announce the source of the salmonella when identified to help prevent further injury to the public. At present, the serotype of the salmonella outbreak has not been released, nor has any group of potential sources. The number of victims, and how many reside outside of Massachusetts, is also being withheld at this time.