Salmonella Infantis has sickened Canadians in five provinces, according to Public Health Canada. The likely cause has not been identified with any certainty, but many who became sick report eating cucumbers before becoming ill.

Public Health Canada says most of the illnesses are centered on British Columbia, which has 37 of the 45 laboratory-confirmed cases. There other four provinces reporting illnesses are Alberta (5); Saskatchewan (1); Manitoba (1), and Quebec (1). The individual from Quebec became ill after traveling in British Columbia.

“Given the evolving nature of this outbreak, the Public Health Agency of Canada is issuing this public health notice to inform residents of western Canada of the investigative findings to date and to share important safe food handling practices to help prevent further Salmonella infections,” the government’s statement said. “At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that residents in central and eastern Canada are affected by this outbreak.

Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have all joined in the investigation.

The 45 illnesses occurred this year between mid-Juen and late September. Nine required hospital care, but no deaths were reported. Most (58 percent) involved females.

CFIA is conducting the food safety investigation, but there’s not yet been enough evidence to require the recall of any product.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends people check health notices to stay current on outbreaks and following safe handling recommendations.

Washington State, which shares a border with British Columbia, also reports six Salmonella infections that date back to Sept. 15 and are linked to cucumbers sold in three-packs by various Costco Stores.

The Washington State cases are in these five counties: Yakima (2); King (1); Snohomish (1); Thurston (1) and Pierce (1).

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.

It is difficult to know whether a product is contaminated with Salmonella because you can’t see, smell or taste it. To help prevent Salmonella infections, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends monitoring the outbreak investigation by checking for regular updates to this public health notice and following safe food handling tips. The following tips for preparing fresh fruits and vegetables 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 fresh produce.
  • Cut away any bruised or damaged areas on fresh produce, since harmful bacteria can thrive in these areas. Be sure to clean your knife with hot water and soap before using it again.
  • Wash fresh produce thoroughly under fresh, cool, running water, even if you plan to peel them. This helps prevent the spread of any bacteria that may be present.
  • Don’t soak fresh produce in a sink full of water. It can become contaminated by bacteria in the sink.
  • Use a clean produce brush to scrub items that have firm surfaces like cucumbers, oranges, melons, potatoes, carrots. It is not necessary to use produce cleansers to wash fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Use one cutting board for produce, and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
  • Place peeled or cut fruits and vegetables on a separate clean plate or in a container to prevent them from becoming cross-contaminated.
  • 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.

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
  • a 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 healthcare provider if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection.