In the past three weeks the number of people confirmed with Salmonella infections has increased 300 percent in an outbreak traced to raw frozen chicken products. Canadian officials continue to warn consumers to check their freezers for the implicated products.
As of Aug. 10, an additional 21 people were confirmed as outbreak victims, bringing the total to 28, according to Public Health Canada. The Canadian health agency first reported the outbreak on July 21. At that point people in three provinces were infected.
Now public health officials say there are people in seven provinces who have been confirmed infected. Those provinces and the number of sick people in each are: British Columbia with 3, Alberta with 5, Saskatchewan with 3, Manitoba with1, Ontario with 11, Quebec with 2, and Newfoundland and Labrador with 3.
The outbreak alert said health officials are continuing to detect illnesses linked to frozen raw breaded chicken products. The products may appear to be cooked, especially because they are breaded, but federal officials reminded consumers that all poultry products should be cooked throughly — to 74 degrees C — to kill bacteria and viruses.
“Four individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between early June and mid-July 2018. The average age of cases is 28 years, with ages ranging from 1 to 78 years. The majority of cases — 57 percent — are female,” according to Public Health Canada.
“Based on the findings from the investigations to date, exposure to frozen raw breaded chicken products has been identified as the source of illness. Several of the ill individuals involved in the outbreaks reported eating No Name brand Chicken Nuggets (907g) or unbranded $10 Chicken Fries (1.81kg) before their illness occurred.”
Laboratory tests showed samples of both products were positive for Salmonella Enteritidis. The positive food samples had genetic fingerprints, determined using whole genome sequencing, that matched the genetic fingerprints of the infected patients.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency posted recalls for the products:
“The CFIA is working with industry to ensure that these products are removed from the retail market. The investigations are ongoing, and it is possible that more products linked to the outbreak investigations will be identified,” according to the food inspection agency.
Advice to consumers
Anyone who has handled or eaten the recalled products and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific laboratory tests are needed to diagnose salmonellosis, the infection caused by the bacteria.
Public health officials say the symptoms usually begin six to 72 hours after exposure. They can include fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting.
In otherwise healthy adults, symptoms usually last for four to seven days. In some cases, severe illness, hospitalization and death may occur.
People who are infected with Salmonella bacteria can be infectious from several days to several weeks. High risk groups include young children, people older than 65, people such as cancer patients and transplant recipients who have weakened immune systems, and pregnant women.
Federal public health officials in Canada say anyone handling, preparing or eating frozen chicken products are at a higher health risk than those who don’t.