Health officials are in the process of investigating a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 63 people and hospitalized 18, across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.
The source of the outbreak, which continues to cause illness across the country, has yet to be identified.
As of April 5, there have been 63 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteritidis illness, 10 of which were found in Ontario.
Individuals affected by this outbreak have been between the ages of one and 87-years-old, who became sick between Nov. 2018 and March 2019, and are mostly female (57 per cent). Two deaths have been reported in relation to the outbreak, but test results have yet to determine whether Salmonella was a contributing factor.
The public health notice states that more illnesses are likely to be reported in relation to the outbreak, due to a delay between when a person becomes ill and when they report their illness to Public Health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between four and five weeks.
While anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, infants, children and seniors with fragile immune systems, are at a higher risk of serious illness. People who are infected with Salmonella virus may not become sick or exhibit symptoms, but may be contagious for several days to several weeks after exposure.
Protect your health
It is difficult to know whether a product is contaminated with Salmonella because you can’t see, smell or taste it. Therefore, Public Health said the best way to prevent Salmonella illnesses is to use safe food handling practices.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling and preparing food.
- Do not eat raw or undercooked foods such as meats, poultry, fish, shellfish and egg products.
- Cook all raw foods such as meats, poultry, fish and eggs (including raw frozen food products) to a safe handling temperature to ensure that they are safe to eat. Use a digital food thermometer to verify the temperature. Insert the thermometer stem into the thickest part of the food, away from bone, fat or gristle. Make sure it is inserted all the way to the middle.
- Microwave cooking of raw foods such as meats, poultry, fish and eggs (including raw frozen food products) is not recommended because of the possibility of uneven heating.
- Use a separate plate, cutting board and utensils when handling raw meat or poultry products to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria like Salmonella.
- Prevent cross-contamination: Do not re-use plates, cutting boards or utensils that have come in contact with raw meat and poultry products to serve the cooked product unless they have been thoroughly washed.
- Use paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces, or change dishcloths daily to avoid the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria, and avoid using sponges as they are harder to keep bacteria-free.
- Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils before and after preparing food. Use a kitchen sanitizer (following the directions on the container) or a bleach solution (5 mL household bleach to 750 mL of water), and rinse with water.
- Do not prepare food for other people if you think you are sick with a Salmonella infection or suffering from any other contagious illness causing diarrhea.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, called salmonellosis, typically start six to 72 hours after exposure to Salmonella bacteria from an infected animal or contaminated product.
- abdominal cramps
These symptoms usually last four to seven days. While salmonellosis in healthy people generally clears up without treatment, severe illness and hospitalization may occur. The use of antibiotics may be required in some cases.
People who experience symptoms, or who have underlying medical conditions, should contact their health care provider if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will be conducting a food safety investigation in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada, recalling contaminated food products as required. There are currently no food recall warnings associated with this outbreak.