Salmonella outbreak in turkey ‘might be widespread’ in Canada and the U.S., officials warn

Click to play video: 'Hold the turkey: ongoing salmonella outbreak in Canada and U.S.'
Hold the turkey: ongoing salmonella outbreak in Canada and U.S.
WATCH: Hold the turkey! Learn about the ongoing salmonella outbreak in Canada and U.S – Dec 28, 2018

Health officials in Canada and the U.S. are looking into an ongoing and potentially wide-ranging outbreak of salmonella affecting raw turkey and chicken products.

The bacteria can infect individuals who handle raw meat or eat undercooked turkey or chicken.

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The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says one person has died and another 21 have been infected by one strain of salmonella bacteria since April 2017. Nine of the cases occurred in October, around Canadian Thanksgiving.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the salmonella in Canada has the “same DNA fingerprint” as a strain that has affected at least 216 individuals in 38 U.S. states. One American has died so far.

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The CDC says the salmonella bacteria is resistant to multiple antibiotics, although not ones normally used to treat the infection.

“The resistance likely will not affect the choice of antibiotic used to treat most people,” a CDC spokesperson told Global News.

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Patients reported eating different types and brands of turkey, the CDC said in a public notice on Dec. 21. No single source of the salmonella-infected turkey has been identified.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has not issued any recalls but continues to investigate the situation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recalled approximately 116,000 kilograms of Jennie-O-brand turkey since Nov. 15 in connection with the outbreak. However, the CDC says the Jennie-O turkeys do not account for the whole outbreak.

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“The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry,” the CDC says.

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“Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to raw turkey and raw chicken products has been identified as the likely source of the outbreak,” the PHAC said in a public notice issued Dec. 21.

The PHAC says the recalled American turkey products were not imported into Canada. The agency has also vowed to issue food recall warnings whenever an infected Canadian product is identified.

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Most of the Canadian cases have occurred out west, with nine cases confirmed in British Columbia, seven in Alberta and five in Manitoba. One case was also identified in New Brunswick.

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Salmonella can infect anyone, but it is particularly dangerous for the very young or old. Symptoms typically occur within six to 72 hours and include fever, chills, diarrhea, nausea, headaches and vomiting. These symptoms usually last four to seven days, according to the PHAC.

The infection usually clears up without treatment, but more severe cases might require antibiotics.

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The PHAC says cooking a whole turkey or chicken to an internal temperature of 82 C will kill off any potentially harmful bacteria. Leftovers, burgers and ground meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 74 C to avoid contamination.

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Individuals should wash their hands with soap and water before and after handling raw turkey or chicken.

“This outbreak is a reminder that raw turkey products can have germs that spread around food preparation areas and can make you sick,” the CDC says.

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