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CDC confirms 14 human Salmonella cases linked to dry dog food

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 14 people in the US have been sickened with Salmonella infantis infections, including at least five that are hospitalized, in a nine-state outbreak linked to dry dog food.

The CDC reported that multiple brands of Diamond Pet Foods dry dog food, including several that have been recently recalled, are linked to human illnesses, which could be transmitted either through contact with the contaminated petfood or through handling an animal that has eaten the contaminated dog food.

According to the CDC, routine tests by the Michigan, USA, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development first detected Salmonella in an unopened bag of Diamond Pet Foods Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice dry dog food on April 2, though the company has since expanded the recall to include other formulas produced at the same South Carolina manufacturing plant.

PulseNet, the national surveillance system for foodborne illnesses, then identified several cases of human Salmonella infantis infections with a genetic fingerprint identical to that found in the dog food, the CDC reported. The number of confirmed human cases of Salmonella in each USA state are: three cases in Missouri, three cases in North Carolina, two cases in Ohio, and one case each in Alabama, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Of outbeak victims interviewed, 7 of 10 said they had contact with a dog during the week before they became ill and four out of five people who could remember the type of dog food they had handled said it was a Diamond Pet Foods brand, CDC says.

"PulseNet is critical to our food safety system," said Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, who leads the Outbreak Response Team at CDC. "It's a very important way for us to detect these big, multi-state outbreaks. There may be only one or two cases per state, but if you can look across the country and add them up, the need for an investigation becomes much more apparent."

The company's press release had stated that there were no dog illnesses associated with the recall. However, according to both the CDC and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, no pet illnesses have been reported because state and federal agencies don't track pet illnesses. The groups say that fact that no dog illnesses have been reported does not mean that no dog illnesses have occurred, but rather there is just no system in place to confirm dog illnesses. Laura Alvey, spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, said that the agency is unable to reveal the number of dogs affected at this time because in order to confirm an outbreak-related case of Salmonella in a dog, a vet would have to submit a pet's stool specimen for laboratory testing, which is not usually done.

"The complaints come in from all around the country so we have to ensure that the numbers are correctly tallied and compiled (weed out duplicates, incomplete records, etc.) and they're being consistently reported," Alvey said.

Consumers should discard any recalled product immediately. Consumers with questions should contact Diamond Pet Foods at +1.800.442.0402. To obtain a product refund, customers can fill out Diamond's "Refund Request" form.

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