CDC report: Drug-resistant salmonella outbreak linked to Wisconsin calves

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with Wisconsin health, agriculture and laboratory agencies, several other states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to investigate a multi-state outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg infections.

Here are some details from the CDC report:

Twenty-one people infected with an outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from eight states. A list of states and the number of cases in each can be found on the Case Count Map page.

Among 19 people with available information, illnesses started on dates ranging from Jan. 11- Oct. 24. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 72, with a median age of 21. Sixty-two percent of ill people are female. Among 19 ill people with available information,  eight  reported being hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.

Isolates from ill people are closely related genetically to one another. This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.

Epidemiologic, traceback and laboratory findings have identified dairy bull calves from livestock markets in Wisconsin as the likely source of infections, according to the CDC.

Dairy bull calves are young, male cattle that have not been castrated and may be raised for meat. Dairy bull calves in this outbreak also have been purchased for use with 4-H projects.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about any contact with animals and foods eaten in the week before becoming ill. Of the 19 people interviewed, 79 percent reported contact with dairy bull calves or other cattle. Some of the ill people interviewed reported that they became sick after their dairy bull calves became ill or died.

One ill person’s dairy calves were tested for the presence of Salmonella bacteria. This laboratory testing identified Salmonella Heidelberg in the calves.

Further testing showed that isolates from ill people are closely related genetically to isolates from these calves. This close genetic relationship means that the human infections in this outbreak are likely linked to ill calves.

As part of routine surveillance, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, one of seven regional labs affiliated with CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Laboratory Network, conducted antibiotic resistance testing on clinical isolates from the ill people associated with this outbreak.

These isolates were found to be resistant to antibiotics and shared the same DNA fingerprints, showing the isolates were likely related to one another.

Traceback information available at this time indicates that most calves in this outbreak originated in Wisconsin. Wisconsin health and agriculture officials continue to work with other states to identify herds that may be affected.