Public health officials investigating the outbreak of an uncommon strain of salmonella that swept through Illinois from May to June announced they have linked the bacteria to 47 Subway franchise stores in the state. Illinois Department of Health officials say they have confirmed 97 cases of Salmonella Hvittingfoss infection across 28 Illinois counties.
Health officials say the salmonella outbreak began on May 11, with the last reported case occurring on June 5. The ages of people with confirmed cases of the unusual bacteria ranged to 2 to 79. No deaths have been confirmed.
Salmonella is usually a debilitating sickness that lasts from 4 to 7 days. Symptoms typically include fever, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, and headache. Patients with weakened immune systems such as young children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to salmonella bacteria. The infection can leave the intestines and infect the major organs, often resulting in liver damage and death.
Although the exact source of the salmonella has not been identified yet, Subway said that it voluntarily withdrew some items from its stores including onions, green peppers, and tomatoes in early June.
Today Subway issued a public apology for the outbreak: “We are truly sorry for the difficulty this situation has caused you, our customer, and are working diligently to solve this mystery and to regain your trust,” Subway said in a statement. The company added that it is now “confident the current fresh produce being served in Subway restaurants are safe to eat.”
The massive salmonella outbreak has been linked to Subway restaurants in 28 counties: Bureau, Cass, Champaign, Christian, Coles, Dekalb, DeWitt, Ford, Fulton, Henry, Knox, LaSalle, Livingston, Macon, Marshall, McLean, Moultrie, Ogle, Peoria, Rock Island, Sangamon, Schuyler, Shelby, Tazewell, Vermilion, Warren, Will, and Winnebago.
Also today, a 46-year-old woman who was severely sickened after eating at a Subway location in Aurora, Illinois, filed a lawsuit against the restaurant chain, alleging the food sickened her to the point of needing emergency medical treatment.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76 million people in the United States get sick every year from salmonella and other foodborne illnesses and 5,000 people die from them.