We sought to determine which Salmonella serotypes cause illness related to the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States and to foods disproportionately eaten then (e.g., turkey). Using routine surveillance for 1998–2018 and a case-crossover design, we found serotype Reading to be most strongly associated with Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving, celebrated annually in the United States on the fourth Thursday of November, often brings together family and friends who eat specific traditional foods, such as mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie; the most prominent food eaten is turkey (1). In 2017, ≈45 million turkeys were produced for Thanksgiving, ≈18% of annual production (2). Turkey is popular across regions, races, sexes, and generations; 88% of persons in the United States report eating turkey during their Thanksgiving meal (1,3,4).
Foodborne Salmonella infections cause substantial illness and death in the United States: an estimated 1 million cases, 20,000 hospitalizations, and 400 deaths occur annually (5). Typical illness consists of diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain lasting 3–7 days; only a minority of persons seek health care. Incubation typically ranges from 6 hours to 6 days (5). Salmonella outbreaks caused by serotypes Hadar and Saint Paul have been most commonly attributed to turkey, and serotypes Enteritidis, Heidelberg, and Typhimurium have been frequent causes of turkey-associated outbreaks (6). During 2015‒2020, Reading and Hadar were the serotypes most often isolated from turkeys (7); less is known about which serotypes cause turkey-associated sporadic Salmonella infections. We aimed to determine which Salmonella serotypes cause sporadic enteric infections after the Thanksgiving holiday and are most likely related to foods disproportionately eaten then, particularly turkey.