CDC: Salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter may be on the decline

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday said the current salmonella outbreak tied to a Georgia peanut butter manufacturer appears to be reaching its end.

"Although we cannot yet say the outbreak is over, the numbers of new cases have declined over the last two weeks," CDC officials said on the agency's Web site Monday. "The outbreak appears to have reached its peak in December and is now in decline."

As of Sunday, 501 Americans and one Canadian had been infected with salmonella contracted from peanut butter, and health officials believe the virus contributed to at least eight deaths. Researchers say it can be difficult to identify the end of an epidemic such as this because it can take two to three weeks for new cases of salmonella to be reported.  

The peanut butter in question was manufactured at a Georgia facility and distributed primarily to long-term care facilities, hospitals and other institutions. According to a recent New York Times news report, the facility, which is owned by Peanut Corp. of America, has a history of health inspection violations dating back to 2006. Among the infractions were dirty surfaces, un-sanitized machinery and potential entry points for rats and rodents to gain access to the building, the Times reports. The factory is currently closed.