The Middlesex-London Health Unit is investigating a recent surge in the number of reported cases of salmonella.
Health officials confirm there’s been 14 lab confirmed cases of salmonella reported since last Thursday. Based on a five-year average of salmonella cases reported in August, the Health Unit would expect to see about nine cases over the entire month.
“With people barbecuing and preparing food outdoors, it isn’t uncommon to see a few cases of salmonella in the summer months, but more than a dozen in a week is surprising, which is why we’re trying to determine a cause,” said Stephen Turner, Director of Environmental Health and Infectious Diseases with the Middlesex-London Health Unit.
“Proper food preparation practices, like keeping foods separated, making sure meals are cooked to the proper internal temperature and ensuring cold items stay cold and hot items remain hot, are critical in preventing food-borne illnesses, like salmonella.”
The Health Unit says it will conduct follow-up interviews with those who have become ill, but a common food item or circumstance that links the cases has yet to be determined. Those who have become sick range from young children to seniors, who consumed a variety of food items in various locations.
Salmonella is a bacterial infection characterized by the sudden onset of headache, fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Diarrhea begins six to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food or beverages. Symptoms usually last between four and seven days. Salmonella can lead to medical complications in the very young, the very old and those who have certain underlying medical conditions.
Because salmonella can be passed from person to person, individuals suspected of having salmonella are advised not to prepare food for others. Officials say they should also not work as food-handlers, health care or child care providers until they have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours.
To prevent food-borne illnesses, the health unit also recommends the following:
- Washing hands with warm water and soap before and after handling food.
- Washing cutting boards, utensils, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next food.
- Keeping food separate to avoid cross-contamination.
- Using a thermometer to make sure food items are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
- Refrigerating leftovers and takeout foods within two hours.
- Keeping refrigerators set at 4 C or below.