ATLANTA—Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday that despite continued efforts to halt the multistate outbreak of an intensely noxious, mayonnaise-borne virus, they have been unable to combat its deadly progress.

Public health officials warn that even just picking at the potato salad could be deadly.

The first known case of the viral strain, which thrives in the delicious, creamy environment of mixed egg yolks, vegetable oil, and vinegar, was recorded by the CDC just three weeks ago and may be the strongest and most infectious contagion ever detected in mayonnaise or a mayonnaise-related substance. The agency's leading scientists have determined the epicenter of the growing pandemic to be an infected roast beef sandwich in the St. Charles suburb of Chicago.

Despite the best efforts of the CDC, an estimated 40 million Americans have already been affected by what the media has dubbed the "White Plague."

"We have identified the popular condiment mayonnaise as the sole carrier of this highly contagious and deadly viral strain," said Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the CDC. "There is no known cure, and for now, all citizens must seriously examine their mayo-eating habits in order to avoid contracting the disease. Maybe you could try eating your turkey club with mustard, or perhaps a small helping of relish."

"Most importantly, do not panic," Gerberding continued. "We assure you that normal mayonnaise consumption will resume as soon as we clear the dead and contain this lethal pathogen."

According to information released by the CDC to all major television and radio stations, ingestion of the mayonnaise-borne virus results in shooting body pains, headaches, fevers, internal bleeding, abnormal gait, loss of muscle control, dementia, and, in its final stages, a slight decrease in one's desire to consume mayonnaise. Death generally occurs within 48 hours, by which time the virus has completely liquefied the host's gastrointestinal tract.

Although officials originally hoped direct appeals to the American public would curtail the spread, two simultaneous educational campaigns and a series of warning labels have proved ineffective, and experts are now estimating the that death toll will surpass 100,000.

"All citizens within the affected zones please be advised: If you absolutely have to put mayonnaise in your potato salad, at least use a clean knife," said Gerberding, specifically referring to those living in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania—the region commonly known as the "Mayo Belt." "And I cannot stress this enough: If a glob of mayo comes in contact with your skin, do not lick it off."

Gerberding also cautioned that there is no "safe" mayonnaise, and that adding flavors such as chipotle will not counteract the virus's effect.

Thus far, the public seems unfazed by the rapidly disseminating, initially tasty pathogen, with many brave citizens saying they will continue buying and consuming the condiment regardless of its potential health risks.

"I don't want a dry sandwich," said Salt Lake City native Scott Hagens, 42. "That's no way to eat."

"If I get it, I get it," said Louisville resident Debra Rothman, 56. "I'm not going to change my whole life around every time they come on TV and say something is bad for you."

With the virus claiming more victims each day, the CDC has utilized all available outlets to urge citizens to avoid such mayonnaise-heavy foods as deviled eggs, tuna salad, and coleslaw. But new figures suggest the rampant media images of mayo-enhanced products may have backfired. Sales of the creamy sandwich topping have increased 55 percent since the public service announcements began.

"Thankfully we didn't warn people not to eat spoonfuls of mayo straight out of the jar," one anonymous CDC official said.

As the nation's top microbiologists feverishly work to develop a vaccine for the virus, they continue to face setbacks, as many of the mayonnaise samples procured for analysis have disappeared from the laboratory. Fortunately, doctors have found some success using heavy doses of antibiotics to combat the virulent disease.

"Left unchecked, Hellmansviridae could potentially wipe out all human life in North America by the end of lunch on Friday," said Dr. Derek Patterson, an infectious disease specialist. "But tests show it can be treated with antibiotics when patients reduce their daily intake of mayonnaise to three tablespoons or less per 12 hours."

"Sadly, only one in 100 Americans has effectively been able to reduce personal mayo consumption to these levels," Patterson added.

Upon successful development of a vaccine, CDC officials had planned to administer the preventative treatment through a hummus-based delivery system, but initial testing showed high levels of human resistance to any potential medicinal chickpea spread. The public health organization is now seeking FDA approval for a mayo-based mayo vaccine.

"I pray my colleagues will be able to find a cure before it's too late," Dr. Gerberding said. "But, at the moment, it seems all we can hope for is a Miracle Whip."