Jambalaya suspected in Louisiana salmonella outbreak

49 cases reported, including 1 death

(CNN) - Scores of people are sick after an outbreak of salmonella poisoning in Louisiana that may have caused the death of one person, according to officials.

Jambalaya sold at a fundraiser in Caldwell Parish in northern Louisiana on October 16 is the suspected cause of the illnesses, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

Health officials are conferring with a pathologist and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if the death can be attributed to an outbreak. A second bacteria commonly found in raw meat and poultry also contributed to the mass food poisoning, the department said.

"The fundraiser was supported by many local businesses throughout the community that purchased plates of jambalaya," the department said in a statement Thursday.

As of Saturday, 149 cases of gastrointestinal illness had been confirmed in patients aged 15 to 72 years old, department spokeswoman Kelly Zimmerman said.

Thirty-seven people have been hospitalized, and officials are expecting additional cases.

"Health officials believe that at least 300 people were served the suspect jambalaya and are anticipating there will be more reports of illness in the next several days, the department said. "One death has occurred and an autopsy is occurring to determine if the death was caused by this illness or other causes."

Jambalaya is a dish of Louisiana origin, made with meat, chicken, sausage, vegetables, rice and often seafood.

The health department said food purchased from the fundraiser -- including side dishes that could have had contact with the jambalaya -- should be thrown away.

What is salmonella?

Salmonellosis, the infection caused by the bacteria salmonella, is one of the most frequently reported foodborne illnesses in the United States, with an estimated 1 million salmonella cases occurring annually.

Approximately 380 people die each year due to salmonella, according to the CDC.

People become infected by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Typical symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fever. Most people experience symptoms within eight to 72 hours after contaminated food is ingested.

Infections usually resolve in three to seven days, and mild cases often do not require professional treatment. More severe cases require antibiotics.

Salmonella infections can be life-threatening especially for young children, pregnant women and their fetuses, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. The salmonella infection can spread from the intestines to the blood stream and cause death if not treated early.

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