Outbreak of Salmonella infections possibly linked to long English cucumbers
Since the last update on November 2, 2018, the Public Health Agency of Canada has seen a decrease in the number of cases being reported, which indicates that the outbreak appears to be winding down. The outbreak investigation remains active and the Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to monitor for new cases. The public health notice will be updated if there is any new information about the source of contamination or when the investigation closes.
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 five provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec. The illness reported in Quebec was related to travel to British Columbia. At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that residents in eastern Canada are affected by this outbreak.
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. However, more information is needed to determine the possible causes of contamination.
The outbreak investigation remains active, but there has been a decrease in the number of cases being reported, which indicates that the outbreak appears to be winding down. Some illnesses may not be reported yet because of the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. This period of time is called the case reporting delay. In national outbreak investigations, the case reporting delay is usually between 5 and 6 weeks.
The Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to monitor for new cases. This public health notice will be updated if there is any new information about the source of contamination or when the investigation closes.
As of November 27, 2018, there have been 55 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella Infantis illness investigated in the following provinces: British Columbia (47), Alberta (5), Saskatchewan (1), Manitoba (1), and Quebec (1). The individual from Quebec reported traveling to British Columbia before becoming ill. Individuals became sick between mid-June and late-October 2018. Eleven individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 1 and 92 years of age. The majority of cases (60%) are female.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency continues to collaborate with the overall outbreak investigation. If contaminated food products are identified, they will take the necessary steps to protect the public, including recalling the product 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. 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, including long English cucumbers, 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.
- abdominal cramps
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.