OTTAWA, ON - The Public Health Agency of Canada is warning people of an outbreak of salmonella infections.
As of April 5th, 2019, there have been 63 lab-confirmed cases of Salmonella illnesses, 10 of which come from right here in Alberta.
Individuals who became ill are between the ages of 1 and 87. A majority of cases (57%) are female.
Gwen Wirth with Alberta Health Services says there have been no confirmed cases of Salmonella infections here in the South Zone.
April Hexemer with the Outbreak Management Division at the Public Health Agency of Canada says the source of the outbreak has not been identified and the investigation is ongoing.
"We're gathering information on different possible sources and looking to identify a common food item amongst those who became ill," explained Hexemer. "But it's not coming to us right now and we're just continuing to look at it."
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is conducting a food safety investigation. If contaminated food products are identified, they will take the necessary steps to protect the public, including recalling food products as required. Currently there are no Food Recall Warnings associated with this outbreak.
Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but infants, children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill.
Most people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days. It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.
Because you cannot see, smell or taste it, detecting a Salmonella-contaminated product can be difficult.
The best ways to prevent Salmonella illnesses are to use safe food handling practices.
The following tips may reduce your risk of getting sick:
- 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 under-cooked 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 internal 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 counter-tops, 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 typically start six to 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria.
- Abdominal cramps
These symptoms usually last four to seven days and in some cases, hospitalization may occur.
People who are infected with the bacteria can be infectious from several days to weeks.
If you feel you are suffering from these symptoms, Hexemer says it's a personal preference on whether or not you seek medical attention.
The Government of Canada says they are doing everything to resolve this matter. The Public Health Agency of Canada says they are in constant communication with its federal, provincial and territorial partners to monitor the situation.
The Government of Canada will continue to update Canadians as new information related to these investigations becomes available.
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