Dec. 24, 2010 -- Health officials are investigating a salmonella outbreak linked to alfalfa sprouts that has sickened 89 people in 15 states and Washington, D.C., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the illnesses have occurred in Midwestern states, with 50 cases in Illinois, 14 in Missouri and nine in Indiana.
The Illinois Department of Public Health said many of the people who became ill said they'd eaten alfalfa sprouts at Jimmy John's restaurants in several counties. The department is trying to determine the source of the outbreak.
The CDC said the illnesses were reported between Nov. 1 and Dec. 21. So far, no one has died as a result of the outbreak, but about 18 people have been hospitalized.
There have been several other salmonella outbreaks this year. Among the notable ones were the outbreak that affected one variety of Marie Callendar's frozen meals and the outbreak that prompted a recall of hundreds of millions of eggs over the summer.
According to the CDC, most people infected with salmonella experience diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain between 12 and 72 hours after exposure. Illnesses can last up to a week. If diarrhea is severe, it may require hospitalization, and if the bacteria enter the bloodstream and spread, it can be fatal if not treated with antibiotics.
To lower the chance of getting sick, the CDC recommends thoroughly cooking sprouts. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with weak immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts.