SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Six cases of salmonella believed to be linked to ground turkey have been confirmed in California, including cases in San Diego, Riverside, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco, the state Department of Public Health confirmed Tuesday.

The lone fatality among 77 salmonella cases reported nationwide was in Sacramento, according to the agency.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the illnesses were first reported in early March, and interviews with available patients determined that about half of them had eaten ground turkey. Cultures from four ground turkey samples purchased from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27 were found to be tainted with the strain of salmonella. Three of the samples originated at the same production facility, which was not identified.

Federal officials issued a public health alert Friday for frozen or fresh ground turkey, urging people to properly handle and cook the product -- to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. No recalls have been issued.

"Go out, invest in a digital thermometer, they're fantastic," California Department of Public Health spokesman Mike Sicilia told KNX Newsradio. "You put it right in the middle of the meat, it gives you an instant reading. And then clean those surfaces that you have used afterwards

with soap and water and then do a little disinfectant job after that.

"If you're very careful, you cook your poultry thoroughly and there is no reason to worry about anything you might currently have in your freezer," he said.