Updated 04/04/12 – 9:15 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A salmonella alarm — possibly linked to sushi — has spread to Illinois.
Health officials say eight people in Illinois, three in the suburbs and five in Chicago, are among 93 nationwide who have been sickened by an outbreak of salmonella, apparently linked to spicy tuna rolls. However, federal health officials have not officially determined the source.
One official says the eight confirmed were reported between Feb. 11 and March 12, requiring two people to be hospitalized. A source has not been confirmed, but reports say many of those stricken had eaten sushi or sashimi before becoming sick.
Melanie Arnold of the Illinois Public Health Department said: “Were Looking at .. a fairly unusual strain of salmonella.” She said most people recover after getting sick, and symptoms–fever and abdominal cramping–last for up to 72 hours.
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A Chicago food safety expert told CBS2’s Mike Parker she’s not surprised that sushi, particularly spicy tuna rolls, are prime suspects in the outbreak. Dr. Kantha Shelke said that delicacy with its raw tuna, rolled by hand with spices and white rice into rolls of seaweed, are handled a lot by food preparers.
“And so,” she said, “it’s possible that it gets contaminated every step of the way.”
Shelke said the temperature of the raw fish is also an issue. Restaurants should keep it at 40 degrees or less and it should be eaten within two hours after it is prepared. Freezing and then refreezing it can be a danger.
“If it was not thawed out properly,” she warned, “ and the temperature conditions weren’t correct, if it had been thawed out a little too long, it’s been sitting out at the wrong temperature, that’s when the problem starts.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working together to isolate the source or sources of the problem. If you think you’ve been made sick by what you’ve eaten, you should see your doctor.