The Middlesex-London Health Unit is continuing to investigate a rash of reported salmonella cases in the city over the last several weeks, and officials say more than half of the reported cases are connected to a local pizza and shawarma establishment.
As of Tuesday, Health Unit officials said they had been notified of 37 lab confirmed cases of salmonella infection since Aug. 18, 23 more than when the health unit first announced its investigation on Aug. 26. In addition, officials said they had been notified of six probable cases, and one suspect case.
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.
In a media release, the Health Unit said there was no clear link tying together the high number of cases at the beginning of the investigation, however, reports that two individuals who had been infected with salmonella had both recently eaten at the same restaurant, Babylon Pizza and Shawarma on Wellington Rd., “caught investigators’ attention.”
“Public Health Inspectors visited the restaurant on Aug. 25, and working with the operator conducted a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the facility,” said the release. “Inspectors have conducted daily inspections since then and continue to provide food handler education to staff at the restaurant.”
After extensive interviews and follow-up calls with those who fell ill, Health Unit officials concluded that 24 of the 44 total reported cases were connected to the establishment, the release said.
“There have been no reports of salmonella infection occurring in people who ate food at Babylon Pizza and Shawarma after Aug. 25,” said the release. “Although a link for many cases has been established, the Health Unit remains vigilant and continues to seek other potential sources of contamination.”
“The measures Babylon’s owners have put in place since we started working closely with them, show their commitment to making sure proper food handling practices are in place,” said David Pavletic, Manager of Food Safety and Health Environments at MLHU, in a statement.
Excluding the nine cases from September, and the cases tied to the pizza and shawarma establishment, the Health Unit says the 11 remaining reported August cases are “close to the five-year average of nine cases for that month.”
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.