Salmonella has been in the news lately due to an outbreak that health officials are calling the largest foodborne outbreak in U.S. history.

The salmonella outbreak is blamed for over 1,000 illnesses across the country - with 203 people requiring hospitalization since June 1, 2008.

What makes this outbreak particularly ominous is neither the FDA nor the CDC know what the source of the outbreak is.

Initially, the source was thought to be tomatoes. But on Wednesday, U.S. health officials added hot jalapeño peppers and cilantro (salsa) to the growing list of suspects. The first cluster of illnesses were linked to restaurants, leading federal officials to believe that food containing fresh tomatoes and jalapeno peppers were the culprits.

"Neither tomatoes nor jalapeños explain the entire outbreak at this point," said Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the division of foodborne, bacterial and mycotic diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. "We're presuming that both of them cause illness."

Some critics believe the government's inability to pinpoint an exact cause leaves the nation vulnerable to biological terrorist attacks.

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Amy Winehouse is a sick woman. The British singer has been hospitalized in a London hospital ever since fainting at home on June 16.

Winehouse was not diagnosed with the sometimes fatal lung infection Tuberculosis as some online reports suggested.

But you could be infected with Tuberculosis right now and not even know it.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious lung infection caused by inhaling an airborne bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain.

When a person with active TB coughs or sneezes, the bacterium becomes airborne and is then inhaled by people nearby. It isn't just the homeless who are infected with TB: anyone can catch TB. As a matter of fact, some TB patients are well-to-do people who travel in Third World countries or underdeveloped nations where access to medical care is limited or non-existent.

You can very likely contract TB from the doctor or lawyer sitting next to you on a plane, or from a co-worker who recently returned from a trip to Africa. Most people with TB don't know they have it because the germ is usually subdued by the body's immune system which sends blood cells to attack it.

The problem is the TB germ can trick the body into thinking it's dead when in fact it is lying dormant inside the lung until it's awakened years later by an immune system that is weakened by other illnesses.

People who have the dormant or latent TB infection cannot infect others. They will not have symptoms and can live with the infection for a lifetime without ever becoming ill. When the infection is "awakened" or becomes active - that person is considered a threat to public health and must be treated immediately.

Those with active infections who refuse to comply with their treatment regimen (which can take up to 9 months to complete) can be arrested and detained for treatment.

The symptoms of active TB infection are:

  • weakness or fatigue
  • weight loss
  • no appetite
  • chills
  • fever
  • sweating at night
  • productive or non-productive cough

A positive skin test (PPD) does not mean you have active TB. Further testing is needed to determine if you are active (contagious). Even if you are not contagious you should still seek treatment to prevent the disease from becoming active. As always, consult your doctor if you experience any symptoms or have any questions.

This has been your Medical Minute!


    The tragic death of a South Carolina 10-year-old more than an hour after he had gone swimming has focused a spotlight on the little-known phenomenon called "dry drowning" — and warning signs that every parent should be aware of.

    “I’ve never known a child could walk around, talk, speak and their lungs be filled with water,” Cassandra Jackson told NBC News in a story broadcast Thursday on TODAY.

    On Sunday, Jackson had taken her son, Johnny, to a pool near their home in Goose Creek, S.C. It was the first time he’d ever gone swimming — and, tragically, it would be his last.

    "We physically walked home. He walked with me," Jackson said, still trying to understand how her son could have died. "I bathed him, and he told me that he was sleepy."

    Later, she went into his room to check on him. "I walked over to the bed, and his face was literally covered with this spongy white material," she said. "And I screamed."

Ladies, before you start panicking and keeping your children out of the pool (or the bathtub), this phenomenon is extremely rare.

It seems a few important details were left out of the article. For example, was the little boy sick or in any respiratory distress after he got home? It sounds like he was because mothers don't normally bathe their 10-year-old sons, do they?

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Yesterday I wrote a post detailing a phenomenon that remains a mystery to most doctors. Over the years, many women have complained of a phantom cramping pain that begins about 10 minutes after they engage in sexual intercourse or oral sex. The cramps increase in intensity to the point where some women are immobilized with pain.

Yesterday I wasn't clear in pointing out that the cramps are usually brought on by the female orgasm - not the physical act of having sex itself. When a female has an orgasm it produces the same minor uterine contractions as women in labor. Most women don't notice the contractions at all after they have an orgasm.

After I published my post on post coital cramps yesterday, I received a handful of emails from loyal readers who experienced pain during sex due to a medical condition called endometriosis. Women who are diagnosed with endometriosis usually experience sharp pain during and after sex.

This is different from the post coital muscle cramps in the lower abdomen that otherwise healthy women have complained about for years.

For most women who experience post coital (after sex) cramping, there is no known cause or cure.

More Medical Minute after the break...

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