August 19/Atlanta/CNN.com -- Hundreds of Americans have likely become ill from tainted eggs, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell said.
The FDA, which investigates food contamination, said the CDC received reports of approximately 200 salmonella cases every week during late June and early July. Normally, the CDC has received an average of some 50 reports of salmonella illness each week for the past five years. Many states have also reported increases of this pattern since May 2010, the FDA said.
One Wisconsin woman infected by salmonella has filed a lawsuit against a restaurant that allegedly served contaminated eggs linked to the nationwide outbreak of the potentially-deadly bacteria.
The Kenosha County Health Department closed the restaurant on July 13 to investigate an outbreak of "at least 30 confirmed Salmonella enteritidis illnesses... including the plaintiff's," according to the complaint.
L & K Tricoli, LLC, which owns the restaurant, did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
Salmonella, which is generally contracted from contaminated poultry, meat, eggs or water, impacts the intestinal tract.
Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, which typically begin within 12-72 hours, according to the CDC. Vomiting, chills, headache and muscle pains may also occur, according to the Mayo Clinic. These symptoms last about four to seven days, and then go away without specific treatment in healthy people. Antidiarrheal medications may help with cramps, but they may also prolong the diarrhea, the Mayo Clinic said.
The elderly, infants, and people with impaired immune systems are at heightened risk for developing a more serious illness because of salmonella, the CDC said. Some people can develop life-threatening complications if the infection spreads beyond the intestines. In that case, a doctor may need to prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Other infected people may also require medical attention for dehydration due to persistent diarrhea. Warning signs for extreme dehydration include sunken eyes, dry mouth and tongue, decreased urine output, and reduced production of tears, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Chickens can pass the bacteria to eggs because the eggs leave hens through the same passageway as feces, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Alternatively, bacteria in the hen's ovary or oviduct can get to the egg before the shell forms around it, FSIS said.
The Egg Safety Center is run by United Egg Producers, which describes itself as a cooperative of egg farmers from all across the U.S., representing the ownership of approximately 95% of all the nation's egg-laying hens.
On its website, United Egg Producers says that U.S. egg farmers produced almost 6.5 billion table eggs in April, the most recent month for which statistics are available. The average American eats about 250 eggs per year, the trade group says.
After the uptick in salmonella infections, the CDC and the FDA traced the source and determined it was most likely eggs from Wright County Egg. The company says it is working to determine how the shell eggs are being contaminated.
Krista Eberle, director of food safety programs at the Egg Safety Center, reiterated that only shell eggs are affected by the Wright County recall.
"From what we know they only do shell eggs, and if they did extra egg products, they are still considered to be safe," Eberle said. She added that egg products such as egg whites and dried eggs go through pasteurization and extensive heat treatment, so they are considered safe to eat and the Egg Safety Center is not concerned the other products might be sullied with bacteria.
The new recall covers eggs branded as Albertsons, Farm Fresh, James Farms, Glenview, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma, Lund, Kemps and Pacific Coast and are marked with a three-digit code ranging from 136 to 229 and plant numbers 1720 and 1942, the company said. In addition, NuCal Foods, which, on its website, calls itself the largest distributor of shell eggs in the western U.S. announced it was "voluntarily recalling specific ... dates of shell eggs produced by Wright County Egg and packaged by NuCal Foods because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella."
The earlier recall covered the Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps brands that were marked with with a three-digit code ranging from 136 to 225 and plant numbers 1026, 1413 and 1946.
The four-digit plant number begins with "P - " and is followed by the three-digit code.
Both recalls affect eggs packed in several different sized cartons, from a half-dozen to 18 eggs. Only shell eggs are affected by the recall, the company said.
Consumers are encouraged to return the eggs in their original packaging to where they were purchased for a full refund.
Salmonella bacteria can be found inside and outside of eggs that appear to be normal.
From the August 30, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition