Image: JoNel Aleccia
By JoNel Aleccia Health writer
updated 4/4/2011 11:19:26 PM ET 2011-04-05T03:19:26

Government health officials are warning that salmonella bacteria detected in an outbreak of food poisoning from popular turkey burgers may be resistant to common drugs used to fight serious infection.

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At least a dozen people in 10 states have been sickened by raw, frozen turkey burger products produced by the Jennie-O Turkey Store in Willmar, Minn. The firm recalled nearly 55,000 pounds of the meat last week after illnesses were reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Late Monday, CDC officials announced that the strain of Samonella Hadar found in the meat appear to be resistant to several common antibiotics, including ampicillin, amoxicillin/clavulanate, cephalothin and tetracycline.

Drug resistance can "increase the risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure in infected individuals," a CDC statement said.

Health officials have long worried about development of a strain of drug-resistant bacteria in a mass outbreak of foodborne illness.

Among the 12 people with illnesses associated with the turkey burgers, three have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Illnesses have been detected in people from ages 1 to 86, with a median age of 29. Cases have been reported from Dec. 27, 2010 through March 24, 2011. Illnesses that occurred after March 18 may not yet be logged because it can take two to three weeks between the time a person becomes ill and when the infection is reported.

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So far, illnesses have been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Washington and Wisconsin. Wisconsin has three cases; the nine other states reported one case apiece. Investigators have not been able to confirm that all of the ill people actually ate the burgers; however, at least three peple in Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin specifically reported eating the turkey burgers the week before they became ill. Samples of turkey burgers taken from patients' homes in Colorado and Wisconsin tested positive for Salmonella Hadar.

The recall includes 4-pound boxes of Jennie-O Turkey Store All Natural Turkey Burgers with seasonings Lean White Meat. Each box contains 12 1/3-pound individually wrapped burgers. The boxes are marked with a use-by date of Dec. 23, 2011 and a lot code of 32710 through 32780. Establishment number P-7760 is located within a USDA mark of inspection on the front of each box.

Health officials warn that recalled turkey burgers might still be in grocery stores and in consumers' homes, including in the freezer. Consumers should return the product to the place of purchase for a refund. Otherwise, dispose of the product in a closed plastic bag placed in a sealed trash can to prevent animals from eating the meat.

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