Foodborne Illness - Did you know?
Foodborne illness (sometimes called "foodborne disease, "foodborne infection," or "food poisoning) is common, costly-yet preventable-public health problem. 1 in 8 people will become ill with a food related illness each year. That is about 4.0 Million cases per year in Canada.
The last meal you ate is rarely the one that causes you to become ill. Some foodborne illnesses cause symptoms within a few hours, but many others take a few days. The time between infection and illness is call an incubation period and depends on the bacteria, parasite or virus making you sick.
When a group of people are ill and live in the same household, it is more likely that the illness was spread in the household than caused by a meal eaten out. Foodborne illnesses are dramatically under reported.
Common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, malaise, headache and a general feeling of being unwell. These symptoms are easily passed over as the "stomach flu."
So what should you do if you or someone you know is ill with what appears to be a food related?
See your health care provider if you have:
- a high fever, blood in your stools, diarrhea lasting longer than 3 days,
- prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down,
- or signs of dehydration (decreased urination, dry mouth and feeling dizzy upon standing up).
If you think you have a foodborne illness, inform the doctor and ask about stool sample testing. Many foodborne disease caused by bacteria, parasites and viruses can be diagnosed by specific laboratory tests.
If you live with someone with a foodborne illness, thorough sanitizing of all "common contact surfaces" would be prudent. The least expensive and most accessible sanitizer is household bleach.
Mix a spray bottle with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of bleach to 3 cups (750 ml) of water and spray all surfaces where hands touch - this includes door handles, hand rails, cupboards, counters, light switches and the inside of your fridge.
Speaking of your fridge, keep it cold (4 C) to slow the growth of bacteria. Cook meat, poultry and eggs thoroughly. Using an accurate thermometer is a scientific way to know that you are keeping foodborne bacteria at bay. Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating, and wash your hands often, too.
If you have been out for a meal and suspect foodborne illness, report it to Population and Public Health. The phone number is 306-655-4605. You may need to leave a message with your name and phone number for a Public Health Inspector to call you back. you will receive a return call on the same day. The Public Health Inspector will gather information on your location, contact information, signs and symptoms, social events you have attended and if anyone else you ate with is sick.
If an outbreak is strongly suspected, an investigation begins. An outbreak is suspected if several people who ate together, but do not live together are sick. Single complaints about facilities or events or illnesses among household members may not be investigated as outbreaks.
As part of the outbreak investigation, public health focusses on identifying the cause and preventing the spread of illness. This can include interviewing ill and well people, inspecting a restaurant or establishment to ensure compliance with Public Health Regulations, taking food samples for analysis, providing education, and potentially closing a facility if new cases develop and a source cannot be found. An outbreak ends when the critical exposure stops.