Public Health Notice - Outbreak of Salmonella infections

April 15, 2019 – Update

This notice has been updated to reflect seven additional cases of illness that have been reported in the ongoing investigation. There are now 70 Salmonella illnesses under investigation.

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Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella infections involving six provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

The source of the outbreak has not been identified, and the investigation is ongoing. Outbreak investigators are gathering information on possible sources. The outbreak appears to be ongoing, as illnesses continue to be reported.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is issuing this public health notice to inform Canadians of the investigation findings to date and to share important safe food handling practices to help prevent further Salmonella infections.

This public health notice will be updated on a regular basis as the investigation evolves.

Investigation summary

As of April 15, 2019, there have been 70 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteritidis illness investigated in the following provinces: British Columbia (27), Alberta (12), Saskatchewan (8), Manitoba (10), Ontario (11) and Quebec (2). Individuals became sick between November 2018 and March 2019. Eighteen individuals have been hospitalized. Two deaths have been reported; however, it has not been determined whether Salmonella was a contributing cause in these deaths. Individuals who became ill are between 1 and 88 years of age. The majority of cases (60%) are female.

It is possible that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because there is a period of time between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between four and five weeks.

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.

Who is most at risk

Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but infants, children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile.

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.

What you should do to protect your health

It is difficult to know whether a product is contaminated with Salmonella because you can't see, smell or taste it. The best ways to prevent Salmonella illnesses are to use safe food handling practices every day. The following food preparation tips may help reduce your risk of getting sick, but they may not fully eliminate the risk of illness.

  • 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 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 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

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.

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting

These symptoms usually last for four to seven days. In healthy people, salmonellosis often clears up without treatment. In some cases, severe illness and hospitalization may occur. In some cases, antibiotics may be required. People who are infected with Salmonella bacteria can be infectious from several days to several weeks. People who experience symptoms, or who have underlying medical conditions, should contact their health care provider if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection.

What the Government of Canada is doing

The Government of Canada is committed to food safety. The Public Health Agency of Canada leads the human health investigation into an outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal, provincial and territorial partners to monitor the situation and to collaborate on steps to address an outbreak.

Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine whether the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak.

The Government of Canada will continue to update Canadians as new information related to these investigations becomes available.

Epidemiological information

Figure 1 below is an epi curve for this outbreak. This information is used by outbreak investigators to show when illnesses begin, when they peak, and when they trail off. It can take several weeks from the time a person becomes ill to when the illness is reported and testing confirms a link to the outbreak. Data are available for 70 cases.

Figure 1: Number of people infected with Salmonella Enteritidis

text description in table below

Figure 1: Text description
Table 1 – Number of people confirmed to be infected with Salmonella Enteritidis by week of illness onset or specimen collection
Week of symptom onset or specimen collection Number of cases
2018-11-04 2
2018-11-11 2
2018-11-18 4
2018-11-25 4
2018-12-02 3
2018-12-09 8
2018-12-16 5
2018-12-23 4
2018-12-30 6
2019-01-06 2
2019-01-13 6
2019-01-20 2
2019-01-27 6
2019-02-03 1
2019-02-10 3
2019-02-17 1
2019-02-24 1
2019-03-03 1
2019-03-10 2

Additional information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983
hc.media.sc@canada.ca

Public Inquiries

Call toll-free: 1-866-225-0709
Email: info@hc-sc.gc.ca

Investigation History

Public Health Notice: April 5, 2019

Investigation summary

As of April 5, 2019, there have been 63 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteritidis illness investigated in the following provinces: British Columbia (23), Alberta (10), Saskatchewan (8), Manitoba (10), Ontario (10) and Quebec (2). Individuals became sick between November 2018 and March 2019. Eighteen individuals have been hospitalized. Two deaths have been reported; however, it has not been determined whether Salmonella was a contributing cause in these deaths. Individuals who became ill are between 1 and 87 years of age. The majority of cases (57%) are female.

It is possible that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because there is a period of time between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between four and five weeks.

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.

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