Two people have died after testing positive for salmonella at a personal care home in Winnipeg, but health officials say it has not been confirmed whether the bacterial infection contributed to the deaths.
Three residents of the Golden West Centennial Lodge tested positive last month and two of them later died in hospital. The third person recovered.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says the cause of the outbreak has not been discovered.
“Public health and the facility notified residents, families and staff of the outbreak,” an emailed statement from the authority said Friday. “Given that the outbreak was contained to the care home, no further public notification was issued. This is usual practice during a limited outbreak.”
Joyce Kristjansson, the care home’s executive director, said staff brought in special measures while the outbreak was investigated. Residents were not allowed to move off their own floors, all group activities were cancelled and extra emphasis was put on hand-washing for people entering and leaving the building.
“What I would stress is that we do have a very frail population here and we did communicate with all of the families when we were first notified,” she said.
Public health inspectors worked with the care home to try to determine how the outbreak began. The investigation included a kitchen inspection, but no signs of contamination were found.
Health officials lifted the measures on Tuesday and the cases were reported to a national intestinal monitoring program and the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.
Salmonella is a common bacteria that causes intestinal illness. Symptoms may include diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting. It is usually caused by eating contaminated foods that have not been cooked properly, but can also be spread from one person to another if people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.
Food safety expert Rick Holley, professor emeritus in food science at the University of Manitoba, said the rate of hospitalizations due to salmonella in Canada is about 20 cases per 100,0000 people. The federal government estimates there are about 87,500 cases each year.
Most people recover from the infection after about three days of feeling ill.
“But in about 10 per cent of the population — these would be folks that are older or very young, or those that would suffer a health condition that affects the operation of their immune system — there can be very serious effects” including death, he said.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has recalled frozen chicken nuggets three times this year over fears of salmonella contamination.
If people cook their food properly and practice good hygiene, they can usually avoid serious issues with salmonella, Holley said.
“These organisms don’t fool around. They exist to multiply and grow, and they just love to grow at body temperature.”
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press