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Public Health Agency of Canada says salmonella outbreak hits 6 provinces, dozens sick

Public Health Agency of Canada says salmonella outbreak hits 6 provinces, dozens sick


Health officials are investigating an outbreak of salmonella in six provinces that has sickened 63 people, including 18 who have been hospitalized.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says there are laboratory-confirmed cases in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

The agency says the source of the bacterial infection has not been identified.

“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is conducting a food safety investigation,” a government release says. “If contaminated food products are identified, they will take the necessary steps to protect the public, including recalling food products as required.

“Currently there are no food recall warnings associated with this outbreak.”

It says the outbreak appears to be ongoing, as illnesses continue to be reported.

Two deaths have been reported, but the agency says it has not been determined whether salmonella was a contributing cause.

The agency says the people who became ill range in age from one to 87. Individuals became sick between November and March.

The agency said anyone can become sick from salmonella but infants, children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness.

Salmonella is a common bacteria that causes intestinal illness. Symptoms may include chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, 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.

The breakdown of known cases as of Friday includes 23 people in B.C., ten people each in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. There are eight cases in Saskatchewan and two in Quebec.

Deaths reported in Winnipeg

Earlier Friday, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said two people had died after testing positive for salmonella at a personal care home in the city, but health officials said 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.

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.

Three residents of the Golden West Centennial Lodge tested positive last month and two of them later died in hospital. The third person recovered. (CBC)

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.”





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Epilepsy patient refuses to leave Vancouver hospital until her health needs are met

Epilepsy patient refuses to leave Vancouver hospital until her health needs are met


A 22-year-old epilepsy patient is risking arrest — refusing to leave her hospital room at Vancouver General Hospital — claiming the medical system has failed to provide her with a plan of care and that her life is at risk.

Tavia Marlatt has severe epilepsy and can sometimes experience up to 50 seizures a day. Her condition means she can’t live on her own in case she has a seizure and needs someone to administer emergency medication.

Marlatt has been at VGH for the past eight days, undergoing tests to determine whether targeted brain surgery could ease her epilepsy.

Instead, results showed that her epilepsy is critically severe — while doctors thought the seizures were stemming from her left frontal lobe, they’re actually coming from three different spots in her brain.

Because she’s occupying one of just two beds dedicated to seizure assessment in B.C., she’s being discharged on Thursday — a decision she says will put her life in jeopardy.

“I’ve been told that I have to leave the hospital, that [staying] is not an option. So if they need the police to come in here and take me out then that’s fine. If I have to get something put on my criminal record for standing up for what I believe in that’s fine,” she said.

Marlatt and her mother, Renee, who works as a trained special needs caregiver, have been fighting for her right to live at home, rather than have her moved into an institution. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Even spending short amounts of time alone can be dangerous for Marlatt, who recently broke her jaw in four places after experiencing a seizure while walking on the side of the road. She also has borderline personality disorder and cognitive deficits.

Her mother Renee, who works as a trained special needs caregiver, has been fighting for her daughter to live at home and receive support there rather than be moved into an institution.

But the Fraser Health Authority has denied funding that would allow the family to organize in-home care, saying the authority would instead pay for Tavia Marlatt’s care in a group home or at a government-run facility.

“The goal is to get funding so we can hire somebody … while my mom is not home, so that my mom doesn’t come home one day and I’m dead on the floor because there was no one there to put me on my side in the recovery position,” said Marlatt.

“The thought that they think it’s OK for me to go to a group home … that’s also a spit in my face.”

Results from recent tests showed that Marlatt’s epilepsy is more severe than originally thought — while doctors thought the seizures originated from her left frontal lobe, they’re actually coming from three different spots in her brain. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Kim Davidson, executive director of the BC Epilepsy Society, said the family’s position is not meant to be adversarial.

“We’re asking for the basic needs that this young woman requires in order to be safe in our community, that’s it,” she said.

“I think the health-care system needs to [think about] — what does this look like if this turns into a coroner’s inquest?”

Awaiting response from authorities

Davidson said she’s contacted Fraser Health and the minister of health multiple times about the case, with no response. She said that while the doctors working on Marlatt’s case are “extraordinary,” the bureaucracy of the health-care system “is going to cost someone their life.”

Fraser Health previously sent CBC News a statement explaining that in cases like Marlatt’s, community support homes are offered as an option because many caregivers are highly trained to deal with complex care needs.

On Wednesday afternoon B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix declined to comment on the specifics of the case due to privacy.

“It’s going to be the clinicians and the people working on the issue that are going to work out the care plan, they have to work it out with the family with the tools that we have,” he said.

“A disease such as epilepsy puts an enormous burden on everyone involved and I understand that.”

Even spending short amounts of time alone can be dangerous for Marlatt, who recently broke her jaw in four places after experiencing a seizure while walking on the side of the road. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)



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Health Canada suspends licence of Winnipeg cannabis producer Bonify

Health Canada suspends licence of Winnipeg cannabis producer Bonify


Health Canada has suspended the sales licence of Winnipeg-based cannabis producer Bonify.

The federal agency barred Bonify Medical Cannabis from selling cannabis on Monday due to safety and public health concerns.

“The department found that Bonify Medical Cannabis was possessing, distributing and selling product that was purchased from an illegal source, and selling product that did not comply with the good production practices as required under the Cannabis Act and cannabis regulations,” Health Canada spokesperson Eric Morrissette said in a statement.

The case has been forwarded on to the RCMP and Canada Revenue Agency, said Morrissette.

The announcement comes after Health Canada issued a recall on two Bonify strains in December over contamination concerns on products sold in Saskatchewan.

The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba, which regulates the cannabis retail sector, and the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation, the wholesaler of cannabis in the province, followed suit and suspended the sale of Bonify products.

A third-party investigation found the company sold unauthorized product at retailers in Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw.

The investigator alleged senior managers of threatened staff members to look the other way when 200 kilograms of unlicensed cannabis arrived at the Winnipeg facility. Three Bonify executives were subsequently dismissed.

The company has 10 days to respond to the suspension and give Health Canada a reason to reconsider.

Health Canada plans to monitor whatever actions Bonify takes to rectify the non-compliance issue.

“Health Canada will continue to undertake unannounced inspections of cannabis licence holders to help ensure that they are in compliance with the law and regulations,” Morrissette said in a statement.

“Health Canada is disclosing this licensing decision as part of its ongoing commitment to openness and transparency. The department publishes information on its inspection and enforcement activities so that Canadians can see how industry follows the rules put in place to protect their health and safety.”

CBC News tried to contact Bonify Tuesday night for a response but did not hear back.



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