Bacteria suspected cause of gastrointestinal outbreak
The Chief Public Health Office continues to investigate the outbreak of food-borne illness related to a roast beef dinner prepared by volunteers of the Princetown United Church on Saturday, April 28. The total number of persons with symptoms of gastroenteritis reported has now reached 209.
Testing of food samples including roast beef and gravy left over from the event along with the information from food histories have shown the most likely cause of the illness is a bacteria called Clostridium perfringens. This bacteria is sometimes present in beef and when the beef is not kept at the proper temperature after cooking, the bacteria can grow and produce a toxin in the human intestinal tract. This toxin then causes symptoms of gastroenteritis such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
Those who became ill are not contagious to others. Most people who become ill following this type of food-borne illness recover in 24 hours, but continued symptoms of loose stools can occur for up to two weeks. Antibiotics are not recommended as treatment of this organism. It is important to manage symptoms by drinking fluids and resting. If symptoms persist, it is advised to seek medical attention.
Those preparing meals for church suppers or sale of food at any public event are reminded of the importance of reviewing and adhering to proper food preparation, handling and temperature control requirements. Foods such as meat, poultry and fish require careful attention since they are at high risk of food-borne illness.
For information regarding obtaining a food establishment licence and food safety information, please contact Environmental Health at 1-800-958-6400 or visit their website at http://www.gov.pe.ca/health/environmentalhealth.