Salmonella Cheese Kills 1 and Sickens Nearly 90 In Quebec

In a new food contamination outbreak in Canada, one person has died and 87 others have fallen ill with a <"">Salmonella strain that has been linked to three brands of contaminated cheese in Quebec.  Provincial health authorities have announced a recall and, according to Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s director of public health, the outbreak is emerging in three areas—Chaudière-Appalaches, Estrie-Mauricie, and Centre-du-Québec—and which have experienced an unusually high incidence of recent cases.  In a typical year, Quebec normally experiences about 1,000 cases of Salmonella poisoning province-wide.

Arruda reported that the death was of an elderly person and that about 40 percent of those infected required hospitalization for at least one day so that they could be rehydrated or for other symptoms. More cases are expected to occur in the three regions. Generally, Salmonella lasts a week and the elderly, infants, and people with impaired immune systems may require treatment and sometimes hospitalization when the infection spreads from the intestines to the blood stream and other body sites.  Without treatment, severe cases can be fatal.  Some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals.  A small number of persons infected with Salmonella will go on to develop pains in their joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination—a condition called Reiter’s syndrome—which can last for months or years and can lead to chronic arthritis.

Meanwhile, a possible link has been found and the Quebec Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in co-operation with Fromages la Chaudière of Lac-Mégantic, have warned consumers not to eat any of the following three non-refined hard cheeses because they might contain Salmonella enteritidis bacteria:  La Chaudière, Polo, and Tradition.  The recalled cheese products were produced between July 24 and August 24.  Arruda explained that at the onset of the investigation, experts relied on anecdotal information and questionnaires, which pointed to cheese being involved in the outbreak.  “We immediately ordered a special study of the patients as well as other individuals in the region who could have eaten the same food in order to identify the cause ….  We found a similar genetic print in many of these cases,” Arruda said.  “We believe there could be contamination from a specific distribution point,” he added.

Salmonella was at the root of the recent, enormous outbreak linked to Mexican peppers.  Previous Salmonella outbreaks in Canada have been linked to fruits and vegetables; small animals, such as pets infected with the bacteria; and chocolate. Guy Auclair of the province’s Agricultural Department said the strain found in the Quebec cheese is not linked to the Listeria-tainted processed meat that prompted a massive recall of over 200 products made by a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto.

Salmonella is an infection with a bacterium that is usually found in food contaminated with animal feces and is a group of bacteria that passes from the feces of people or animals to other people or animals.  Salmonella poisoning can occur when food is improperly stored or handled and when preparers do not wash their hands or sanitize implements involved in meat storage.

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