Over 500 people in 33 US states have been infected with salmonella, and one woman is dead, due to cucumbers. The culprit cukes have been recalled. But the Food Poisoning Bulletin suspects that there may be many more people ill.
Most salmonella cases are not reported, so some experts believe that the true figure for this outbreak is much closer to 16,000 sick. That number comes from using a salmonella multiplier of 30.3, which has been derived from studying other such outbreaks.
A Bad Rap for Fat Boys
The type of cucumber associated with this latest salmonella outbreak is called "fat boy." The cucumber, which is technically a fruit and not a vegetable, is about eight inches long and has a dark green skin. Fat boys are also known as slicers or American cucumbers.
Indeed, they can be found all over the country. A Red Lobster in Minnesota has been linked to the salmonella outbreak, and other chain restaurants that may have used the cucumbers are In-N-Out Burger, Capital Grille, and Olive Garden.
No retail distribution list has been released for fat boys. As such, it is impossible to know which stores might be affected but Walmart, WinCo, Savemart, Ralphs, and Food 4 Less have all recalled the fruit.
Given the short shelf life, however, and the fact that this outbreak began a few weeks back, it is likely that the culprit cucumbers are no longer on the market, even as the number of people who report illness grows.
How Do You Know If You Are Sick?
Salmonella symptoms include abdominal pains, chills, diarrhea, headaches, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches. The infection usually manifests soon after exposure -- within six hours to three days.
Most people recover from the salmonella infection without medical treatment. The vast majority of reported cases of illness this summer were in people under 18 years old, and the San Diego woman who died after infection was 99 years old.
What to Do?
Still, if you feel sick and suspect you may be infected, see a physician. Although the strain of salmonella at the heart of this outbreak is not deadly in and of itself, dehydration and sepsis have been known to take victims' lives.
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. It occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight infection trigger inflammatory responses in the body that can ultimately damage organ systems, causing them to fail.