Federal public health officials are investigating a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Thompson infections traced to Gills brand diced onions.

There are 73 confirmed patients from 22 states, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One-fourth of the patients have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.

Patients report that illnesses started Aug. 2, with the most recent confirmed on Sept. 25.

“The true number of sick people in this outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak,” according to the CDC.

The CDC reports that 14 of 19 patients for whom the information is available ate fresh diced onions before becoming sick. Based on traceback by the FDA, it was found that onions proceeded by Gills Onions of Oxnard, CA, were available at points of service where people ate before becoming ill.

In response to this investigation, Gills Onions has voluntarily recalled diced yellow onion, diced onions & celery, diced mirepoix, and diced red onions.

The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and whether additional products are linked to illnesses.

Patients in the outbreak range from less than 1 to 90 years old. Fifty-eight percent are female, and 42 percent are male.

Sick patients live in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Foodservice product distribution has been confirmed nationwide in the United States and Canada. Retail product distribution has been confirmed in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington; however,  retail distribution could include other states.

In 2012, Gills Onions were responsible for six recalls because of Listeria contamination.

About Salmonella infections

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. According to the CDC, infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile.

Anyone who has eaten recalled products and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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