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A Salmonella outbreak linked to raw chicken packaged at three Foster Farm facilities has made hundreds sick across the country in recent months.
CNN reports that according to the United States Department of Agriculture, as many as 278 people have fallen ill since the strains were first detected in March.
Though Salmonella-related illnesses have been reported in 18 states, if you're on the West Coast, you may want to exercise particular caution. The tainted chicken was mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington state -- with most of the illnesses occurring in California.
The USDA has not directly linked the outbreak of illnesses to a specific product or production period. The USDA mark on suspect packages would read: P6137, P6137A and P7632, reports CNN.
Foster Farms has not issued a recall, claiming the infections were caused by eating chicken that was undercooked or improperly handled, according to a company statement.
As their investigation continues, health officials caution consumers to be careful when handling raw chicken.
Salmonella is a pathogen that contaminates meat during slaughter and processing. While steaks and some other red meats often can be eaten rare, poultry is especially susceptible to Salmonella contamination.
To protect yourself from a Salmonella infection, always cook poultry to at least 165 degrees and don't forget to thoroughly wash your hands after handling raw meat.
Don't wash the poultry before cooking it as the juices can spread to other foods, utensils and surfaces. Cooking it at the right temperature is sufficient to kill the bacteria, reports CNN.
Salmonella infections and illnesses usually occur around 12 to 72 hours after exposure, and most will recover from the illness. Still, deaths have resulted from previous Salmonella outbreaks. In fact, Salmonella from undercooked chicken is the No. 1 source of death from food poisoning.
Experts recommend seeking immediate medical attention if you are experiencing diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.
The elderly, young children and those with impaired immune symptoms have more of a risk of suffering from severe illnesses.
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