Federal health officials have received a wave of new reports from people believed to be sickened by a rare salmonella strain linked to tomatoes. Investigators remain stumped about the source of the tainted fruit.
As of today, 383 cases in 30 states and the District of Columbia have been reported since April. That's up from 277 cases in 28 states and D.C. two days ago.
But the CDC now says the increase in the number of reports does not necessarily mean people are still getting sick.
"The marked increase in reported ill persons is not primarily due to a large number of new infections," reads the latest CDC update. "The number of reported ill persons increased markedly mainly because some states improved surveillance for Salmonella in response to this outbreak and because laboratory identification of many previously submitted strains was completed."
Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC's division of foodborne, bacterial and mycotic diseases, said the majority of the new cases involve people infected more than three weeks ago "when the outbreak appears to have been at its peak."
Still, Tauxe said, "We do not think the outbreak is over."
"It's ongoing at this point," Tauxe said. "It's really too early to call the peak and we certainly cannot say that it's over."
The CDC continues to receive reports, Tauxe said, with the most recent involving an illness that began on June 5. That's two days before the FDA issued a nationwide warning that consumers should not eat certain kinds of tomatoes.
While the CDC tracks the disease, the FDA is trying to determine the source of the contaminated tomatoes.
"We have yet to make a definitive determination of where these contaminated tomatoes have come from," said FDA's chief of food safety, Dr. David Acheson.
Acheson said there's a "high likelihood" the tomatoes came from Mexico or Florida, but he acknowledged the source may remain a mystery.
"We may not ultimately know the farm from where these came from," Acheson said.
Meanwhile, restaurants and grocers across the country are starting to sell tomatoes again.
For a map of the outbreak, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/saintpaul/map.html