Salmonella Poona Outbreak Emerging in North America

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial and local health authorities there as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) in an investigation of a potential North American outbreak of <"">Salmonella Poona.

While Salmonella is the most frequently reported cause of food-related outbreaks of stomach illnesses worldwide, Salmonella Poona is considered relatively rare, but does cause the same illnesses as other species of Salmonella and can be present on a variety of foods including eggs and poultry; unpasteurized milk; and contaminated raw fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.  Salmonella can also be carried by animals, including household pets such as aquarium fish and reptiles.

In Canada, to date, there have been 26 cases of Salmonella Poona poisoning that have emerged in British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.  All of the illnesses share the same genetic fingerprint; however, the cause of the outbreak remains unknown.  Provincial laboratories and the Agency’s National Microbiology Laboratory are conducting ongoing analyses to determine if other Salmonella Poona cases share the same genetic fingerprint as those identified thus far.  It is expected that the number of cases associated with this Salmonella Poona outbreak will increase as the investigation continues.

Salmonellosis, an infection with a Salmonella bacterium, is usually found in food contaminated with animal feces, and can occur when food is improperly stored or handled and when preparers do not wash their hands or sanitize implements involved in meat storage.  Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.  Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and cramping within 12 to 72 hours of infection.  Generally, the illness lasts a week.  In some, hospitalization is required because the infection may have spread to the blood stream and other body sites.  Without treatment, severe cases of Salmonellosis can result in death; however, some Salmonella bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals.

Salmonella poisoning can lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis characterized by severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes and painful urination.  A victim of Reiter’s Syndrome may have already been treated for the initial infection, and it can be weeks before the symptoms of Reiter’s Syndrome become apparent.  Reiter’s Syndrome, which can plague its victims for months or years, is said to occur when reactive arthritis is evident and at least one other non-joint area, such as the eyes, skin or muscles, is affected.

Salmonella contaminations have been the subject of a number of news reports in recent months, including the massive salmonella outbreak that was originally linked to tomatoes and later found to have originated from Mexican peppers.  Salmonella was also the culprit in the Malt-O-Meal; Alamosa water; dry dog food; Casa Fiesta; and the most recent, Texas IHOP contaminations.

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