Estimated to cause more than 1.2 million illnesses each year in the United States, resulting in 23,000 hospital visits and 450 deaths, Salmonella is not to be taken lightly.

Now, after years of wreaking havoc and being at the center of countless food recalls across the country, 40 years of data on the top ranking foodborne illness is available to the public from Atlas of Salmonella: mapping awareness of the foodborne illness the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Atlas of Salmonella in the United States 1968-2011, is a detailed summary on the top 30 serotypes of Salmonella that pinpoint demographic, geographic and other information related to the illness.

In a recent report issued by the CDC, Robert Tauxe, M.D., deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases says, “Salmonella causes a huge amount of illness and suffering each year in the United States. We hope these data allow researchers and others to assess what has happened and think more about how we can reduce Salmonella infections in the future.”

“The more we understand Salmonella, the more we can make progress in fighting this threat all along the farm to table chain.”

The 248 page summary not only allows public access to trending information relating to human infections, but also connections from animals and sources such as environments and feeds. This data was provided by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

“In addition to reports of human infections, it includes reports of Salmonella in animals, the environment, and animal feeds, which can be sources of antibiotic resistant strains,” says the report.

Salmonella prevention

Children under the age of five are the most infected with Salmonella, says CDC. People with poor immune systems, young children and the elderly are all more susceptible. Generally, the illness hits victims with gastroenteritis and can have lasting effects such as reactive arthritis.

CDC prevention tips include:

  • Cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs thoroughly. Do not eat or drink foods containing raw eggs, or raw (unpasteurized) milk.
  • If you are served undercooked meat, poultry or eggs in a restaurant, don't hesitate to send it back to the kitchen for further cooking.
  • Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.
  • Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.
  • Wash hands with soap after handling reptiles, birds, or baby chicks, and after contact with pet feces.
  • Avoid direct or even indirect contact between reptiles (turtles, iguanas, other lizards, snakes) and infants or immunocompromised persons.
  • Don't work with raw poultry or meat, and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper) at the same time.
  • Mother's milk is the safest food for young infants. Breastfeeding prevents salmonellosis and many other health problems.

Click here for more information about Salmonella from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.