IDPH 125th


During April and May 1998, a data entry specialist and a laboratory worker with the state health department noted an unusual upturn in the number of infections caused by Salmonella agona bacteria.

While Salmonella is the most common bacterial agent associated with foodborne outbreaks, the particular serotype – agona – identified by IDPH staff was not. What staff had noticed was the beginning of a nationwide outbreak that eventually sickened more than 400 people in 21 states. Nearly 40 percent of those who became ill were hospitalized and one person died. In Illinois, 55 residents were part of the outbreak.

As local, state and CDC personnel interviewed cases in an effort to trace the cause of the outbreak, another IDPH employee began to compare S. agona case histories to those of other Salmonella serotypes identified during the same time period. Out of this comparison emerged a link between the illnesses and consumption of a toasted oats cereal.

Subsequent testing (by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis) of the cereal and of samples from the patients and the production line yielded a match. As a result, all cereal made on that production line was recalled. This was the first time a cold cereal product had been implicated in a Salmonella outbreak.

... Years Ago in Public Health

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