As the patient count continues to increase, investigators in Canada are looking look for clues in an ongoing Salmonella Infantis outbreak health officials say is linked to long English cucumbers.
The Public Health Agency of Canada went public with information about the outbreak on Oct. 19, reporting 45 people across five provinces had been confirmed infected. As of Nov. 2, the agency reported another five people have been confirmed sick.
Patients and public health officials report illness onset dates beginning on June 17 and running through Sept. 30. Additional people are expected to be confirmed as outbreak victims, partly because it can take several weeks for confirmation testing and reporting to be completed.
“The outbreak appears to be ongoing, as illnesses continue to be reported,” according to the update from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
“Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to long English cucumbers has been identified as the likely source of the outbreak. Many of the individuals who became sick reported eating long English cucumbers before their illness.”
Ten of the outbreak patients have had symptoms so severe that they had to be admitted to hospitals. No deaths have been confirmed. People who have been confirmed as part of the outbreak range in age from 1 year to 92 years old. The majority, 58 percent, are female.
Health officials are working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on the outbreak investigation. As of today, neither the Canadian government nor industry has initiated any recalls in relation to the outbreak.
Except for one patient from Quebec — who reported traveling to British Columbia before becoming ill — all of the confirmed outbreak victims are in five western provinces. British Columbia has been hardest hit with 42 cases, followed by Alberta with five. Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec each have one confirmed case.
“At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that residents in eastern Canada are affected by this outbreak,” according to the PHAC update.
Long English cucumbers are a specific variety of the vegetable, with the word English referring to that variety and not indicating the cucumbers are exported from England.
Advice to the public
Food that is contaminated with Salmonella bacteria usually does not look, smell or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but infants, children, seniors and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to PHAC.
Anyone who has eaten any long English cucumbers and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, making diagnosis difficult.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that patients need to be hospitalized.
Older adults, children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.
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.
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