Between August 2010 and June 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counted 109 people in 38 states infected with a commercial strain of Salmonella Typhimurium most commonly found in microbiology laboratories. On Tuesday, the CDC released its final report on the outbreak, which Food Safety News first reported on in April 2011.
The outbreak, which hospitalized 13 individuals and resulted in one death, is notable because of its association with educational and clinical labs instead of food. Sixty percent of the ill reported being in or near microbiological labs in the week before their illness began, compared with two percent of respondents in the CDC investigation's control group.
The number of ill also included several children living in the same household as someone who worked or studied in a microbiology laboratory, further suggesting that the infections came from neglectful exposure within a lab setting: Individuals likely improperly handled bacteria samples, which they then transferred to themselves or others.
In August 2011, microbiologist and eFoodAlert author Phyllis Entis criticized the labs involved linked to the outbreak, calling on teachers and lab managers to better prepare students and staff to safely handle harmful pathogens.
"My whole take is that there's been poor training and poor attention to safe, sensible handling in the labs. It's totally unconscionable," Entis told Food Safety News Wednesday.
"I think people get careless," she added. "The mindset is that these are strains meant to be control cultures for teaching or testing, so they must be relatively innocuous. The whole culture of protecting the individual gets lost in the shuffle."