Salmonella outbreak tied to cucumbers slowing; investigation continues
Canadian officials say a Salmonella outbreak associated with fresh cucumbers appears to be winding down, but they are continuing their investigation in hopes of pinpointing the source of the bacteria that infected 55 people across the country.
No recalls were initiated in relation to the outbreak. Confirmed outbreak patients reported eating a variety of brands of English style cucumbers purchased from a variety of locations.
“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,” according to this week’s update from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“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.”
In the previous outbreak update, posted Nov. 2, the health agency reported 50 confirmed patients. Illness onsets began the week of June 6 and continued through the week of Oct. 21. Cases peaked in August, with 18 cases reported the week of Aug. 18 and another 10 reported the following week.
The patients range from 1 to 92 years old. The majority, 60 percent, have been female. No deaths have been confirmed, but one in every five patients have been so sick they had to be admitted to hospitals.
Patient counts by province, as of Nov. 27, were: British Columbia with 47; Alberta with 5; and Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec with one each. The individual from Quebec reported traveling to British Columbia before becoming ill.
Advice to consumers
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 public health officials.
Anyone who has eaten any fresh 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, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.
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, 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.