Canada’s public health authority has launched an investigation into an outbreak of listeriosis that has affected people in three provinces.
Rosemount brand cooked diced chicken is the “likely source,” the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said in a notice on its website Wednesday.
The agency said the product was available at cafeterias, hospitals and nursing homes “where many of the individuals who became sick resided, or visited, before becoming ill.”
One Rosemount product was recalled in August over possible Listeria contamination, and since then recalls have been put in place for some ready-made chicken sandwiches and other cooked chicken products. The products affected are sold under various brand names in multiple provinces.
Full information is available on Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.
PHAC said it launched a probe after noticing an uptick in Listeria cases in June. Using whole genome sequencing in a lab, two listeriosis cases from November 2017 were determined to be from the same genetic strain as cases between April and June of this year, PHAC said.
A total of seven cases of Listeria have been connected to that strain. Five out of seven of those who became ill were from Ontario; the other cases occurred in Manitoba and B.C.
The PHAC said all but one were hospitalized due to the illness, and all were over the age of 50.
In the U.S., a closely-related listeria strain has infected 24 people, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and PHAC are collaborating in their investigations. Two of those who fell ill in the U.S. have died.
While the Listeria Monocytogenes bacteria can make anyone sick, pregnant women and their unborn children, babies, seniors and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk, PHAC said.
Symptoms can appear as soon as three days after exposure. They include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches, as well as vomiting, cramps, constipation and diarrhea. In severe cases, the illness can spread to the nervous system, causing symptoms such as stiff neck, confusion, headache and loss of balance.
“If you suspect you have become ill from eating cooked, diced, or shredded chicken meat, or have symptoms consistent with listeriosis, talk with your healthcare provider,” PHAC said.
The agency is recommending that Canadians check their refrigerators for any cooked, diced or shredded chicken products that have been recalled. They should be thrown out or returned to the place of purchase.
Listeria-contaminated foods may look, smell and taste normal, PHAC warned.