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Public Health Notice - Outbreak of Salmonella infections

The outbreak of Salmonella infections involves six provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

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 six provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

The source of the outbreak has not been identified, and the investigation is ongoing. Outbreak investigators are gathering information on possible sources. The outbreak appears to be ongoing, as illnesses continue to be reported.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is issuing this public health notice to inform Canadians of the investigation findings to date and to share important safe food handling practices to help prevent further Salmonella infections.

This public health notice will be updated on a regular basis as the investigation evolves.

Investigation summary

As of April 5, 2019, there have been 63 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteritidis illness investigated in the following provinces: British Columbia (23), Alberta (10), Saskatchewan (8), Manitoba (10), Ontario (10) and Quebec (2). Individuals became sick between November 2018 and March 2019. Eighteen individuals have been hospitalized. Two deaths have been reported; however, it has not been determined whether Salmonella was a contributing cause in these deaths. Individuals who became ill are between 1 and 87 years of age. The majority of cases (57%) are female.

It is possible that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because there is a period of time between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between four and five weeks.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is conducting a food safety investigation. If contaminated food products are identified, they will take the necessary steps to protect the public, including recalling food products 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. The best ways to prevent Salmonella illnesses are to use safe food handling practices every day. The following food preparation tips 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 and preparing food.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked foods such as meats, poultry, fish, shellfish and egg products.
  • Cook all raw foods such as meats, poultry, fish and eggs (including raw frozen food products) to a safe internal temperature to ensure that they are safe to eat. Use a digital food thermometer to verify the temperature. Insert the thermometer stem into the thickest part of the food, away from bone, fat or gristle. Make sure it is inserted all the way to the middle.
  • Microwave cooking of raw foods such as meats, poultry, fish and eggs (including raw frozen food products) is not recommended because of the possibility of uneven heating.
  • Use a separate plate, cutting board and utensils when handling raw meat or poultry products to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria like Salmonella.
  • Prevent cross-contamination: Do not re-use plates, cutting boards or utensils that have come in contact with raw meat and poultry products to serve the cooked product unless they have been thoroughly washed.
  • 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.
  • Do not prepare food for other people if you think you are sick with a Salmonella infection or suffering from any other contagious illness causing diarrhea.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, called salmonellosis, typically start six to 72 hours after exposure to Salmonellabacteria from an infected animal or contaminated product.

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • 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 health care provider if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection.