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How eggs carry salmonella

The national's largest egg recall -- 550 million eggs shipped to 22 states -- is underway. But many people may not know how eggs carry salmonella.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella enteritidis -- the strain involved in the recent outbreak -- can be on the outside or inside of perfectly normal-appearing eggs.

How does it get inside the egg? One way is when hens eat contaminated feed. The bacteria infects the ovaries of healthy appearing hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed.

Salmonella can lurk on the outside of eggs when they are not properly washed. But stringent procedures for cleaning and inspecting eggs implemented in the 1970s have made salmonellosis caused by external fecal contamination of egg shells extremely rare, the CDC says.

Salmonella enteriditis typically causes illness -- fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting -- within 12 to 72 hours after someone consumes lightly cooked eggs contaminated with the bacteria. Bacteria are most prevalent in the yolk.

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