The outbreak is linked to cucumbers imported from Mexico, the CDC said.

At least 73 people in 18 states have been infected in a Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced.

The outbreak is linked to cucumbers imported from Mexico, the CDC said. So far, 14 people have been hospitalized. The state with the highest concentration of infected people is California, where 28 cases of the illness have been reported. The other affected states are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. It is believed that the first illness occurred on Jan. 12, 2013 and cases were reported until April 6, 2013, with a peak recorded in early March. The infected people belong to various age groups, ranging from babies to people in their 80s, with 60 percent of them female.

In relation to the outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed an "Import Alert" on cucumbers imported from Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse, two suppliers in Culiacan, Mexico. The production was distributed by the Arizona-based company Tricar Sales and sold at numerous locations. According to the CDC, there is no evidence that any of the contaminated cucumbers remain on the market anywhere in the United States.

Federal health investigators are still looking for cases of illness that might be part of the outbreak by using the PulseNet system to compare various DNA "fingerprints" of Salmonella bacteria, obtained through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, the CDC stated. Illnesses which occurred later than March 23 might still not be reported, because it usually takes two to three weeks between falling ill and reporting the disease, the CDC noted.

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During the investigation, officials in local, state and federal public health and regulatory agencies interviewed ill people regarding the types of food they had consumed over a period of seven days before getting ill, as well as about other possible exposures to substances that can cause similar symptoms. Two in three of the interviewed people stated they had consumed various types of cucumbers at different restaurants. A further five percent of the people said they may have eaten cucumbers.

Salmonella is one of the most common causes of food-borne diseases but it is typically associated with eggs, chicken and ground meat. Still, Salmonella bacteria can also be found in produce, mostly because of the fact that fruits and vegetables are eaten raw and, if they are contaminated, the chance of people being infected is higher. Salmonella bacteria are eliminated by heat, so cooked food is typically safe, the CDC explained.

Two years ago another Salmonella outbreak was linked to cucumbers, when North Carolina-based company L&M Companies had to recall its cucumbers from the market over concerns that they might be contaminated with the bacteria.