Salmonella Outbreak Widens After Government Shuts Down
Credit: Raw chicken photo via Shutterstock

Nearly 300 people in 18 states have been sickened over the past few months by an outbreak of the foodborne bacterium Salmonella Heidelberg, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This isn't exactly good timing, since many of the federal personnel who would normally be trying to get to the bottom of the problem are prevented from working due to the government shutdown.

The illness has been tied to chicken produced at three California facilities owned by Foster Farms, and sold in that state as well as Oregon and Washington, according to NBC news. The illness has hospitalized about 42 percent of those affected, approximately double the normal rate seen in a Salmonella outbreak, CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds told NBC News. Many infections also appear to be resistant to common antibiotics, she added.

The CDC has now recalled back to work nine staff members from the agency's PulseNet team, which "monitors the electronic fingerprint of dangerous foodborne bugs." The agency is advising concerned citizens to properly cook chicken and use proper sanitation measures to avoid getting sick.  

"We had said from the beginning that we were monitoring 30 outbreaks of foodborne illness” before the furlough, Reynolds told NBC News. "This is one of them. It's breaking loose now."

Email Douglas Main or follow him @Douglas_Main. Follow us @livescience, Facebook or Google+