Food Safety News

Canada finds first case linked to U.S. salmonella outbreak in returning traveller

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Canada finds first case linked to U.S. salmonella outbreak in returning traveller
by NFSTP Administrator - Monday, 7 July 2008, 2:56 PM

Canada finds first case linked to U.S. salmonella outbreak in returning traveller

TORONTO A Canadian who had recently travelled to the United States has tested positive for Salmonella Saintpaul, the strain of bacteria behind a massive food poisoning outbreak in the U.S., the Public Health Agency of Canada said Thursday.

The case is the first in this country linked to the U.S. outbreak, which has been ongoing since April.

As of Thursday, 922 cases have been confirmed in 40 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Testing showed the Canadian, from Ontario, was sickened by a strain of the bacteria with the same genetic fingerprint as the one responsible for the U.S. outbreak, agency spokesperson Andrea Ellis said in an interview.

"From the information that we have right now it looks like this person acquired their infection when they were travelling in the U.S," said Ellis, an epidemiologist with the agency's centre for foodborne, environmental and zoonotic diseases.

"Given the number of cases in the U.S. and the number of (Canadian) travellers to the U.S., we certainly would expect to see some cases like that."

The time of onset of the person's illness points away from infection occurring in this country, she said. "Certainly there continues to be no evidence that we have this pathogen originating here in Canada."

Ellis wouldn't reveal possibly identifying information such as the person's gender, location - beyond Ontario - or where in the U.S. he or she was thought to have contracted the illness.

She did say the agency has shared the information with the CDC and has been asking public health officials in this country to be on the lookout for illnesses caused by the salmonella strain.

Earlier in the outbreak investigation it was thought the bacteria were in certain types of tomatoes, but recently the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which share responsibility for the investigation, have admitted they have broadened their search.

While tomatoes haven't been ruled out, investigators are also looking at foods commonly eaten with tomatoes, and specifically the ingredients that go into fresh salsa.

Glen Nowak, the CDC's chief of media relations, said there have been about 30 clusters of cases involving people who got sick after eating at a restaurant. In many of the cases, the restaurants served Mexican food, and freshly prepared salsa came up repeatedly in interviews.

But there are a number of food items that go into salsa that can become contaminated with salmonella, further complicating the search for the source.

For now, the only food item U.S. authorities have urged people to forego are certain types of tomatoes.