Illness outbreak linked to Mexican-style cheese

The DeKalb County Health Department has had no reports of illnesses caused by contaminated cheese, but public health administrator Jane Lux is warning the public to beware of illegally manufactured cheese in the wake of a regional salmonella outbreak.

The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a warning on March 28 against illegally-manufactured Mexican-style cheese. Health officials are reporting about 100 cases of salmonellosis in 13 counties believed to be linked to consuming such a cheese. A sample of cheese taken from the home of one person who became ill tested positive for salmonella. The state and local health departments are working to identify the manufacturer of the contaminated cheese.

"It is important for you to check the labeling to make sure the product was made by a licensed dairy manufacturer, even if you purchased the cheese from a grocery store," state public health director LaMar Hasbrouck said in a news release. "If you become ill after eating Mexican-style cheese, contact your health care provider and your local health department."

Many of the people who became ill reported eating Mexican-style cheese obtained from street vendors, relatives and friends. The cheese is not labeled and is often wrapped in aluminum foil. Hasbrouck recommended people not eat cheese if they cannot clearly identify the manufacturer. Salmonella bacteria cannot be detected by sight, taste or smell.

Lux asked anyone with information about illegally manufactured cheese to contact the health department so further illnesses can be prevented. People who become ill after eating cheese should keep the cheese for testing.

Salmonellosis can cause fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Most people recover in three to five days, but the infection can be more severe in children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

The state department of public health urged people to only buy dairy products made by licensed dairy manufacturers.

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