Mind & Body

Contaminated eggs “most likely” cause of salmonella

 | May 21, 2010

An epidemiologist cites improper handling of eggs as the “most likely” cause of a salmonella outbreak.

“Eggs are the most likely source of this outbreak,” explains Dr. Eleni Galanis, physician epidemiologist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). “As sick individuals have eaten eggs from many sources, it’s not clear what type may be causing the outbreak. However, the investigation did uncover the use of ungraded and broiler hatching eggs in restaurants and other food service establishments in the Lower Mainland. Eggs used at these places were of poor quality, cracked and dirty.”

Salmonella can be found on the egg shell, egg white or yolk. Infection occurs when individuals eat raw or undercooked eggs, or handle either the shell or contents of contaminated eggs and don’t wash their hands.

There has been a steady increase of reported cases of a particular salmonella strain with the vast majority reported in the Lower Mainland. Over 500 cases have been reported since 2008. There were no deaths related to this outbreak but fourteen per cent of the infected individuals were hospitalized.

You can prevent salmonella infection by doing the following:

  • Eat well-cooked eggs (with solid yolk and egg white) and avoid
  • raw and runny eggs.
  • Keep eggs refrigerated.
  • Wash hands after handling eggs.
  • Use only pasteurized eggs in foods calling for uncooked eggs (these are available in grocery store dairy sections).

Symptoms of a salmonella infection include stomach cramps, nausea, headache and diarrhea. These symptoms occur 12 to 36 hours after infection and may last several days. Most people recover without treatment. If symptoms last over a week or are severe, call a physician.

If you have symptoms compatible with salmonella infection, call the 24-hour HealthLink BC line at 811, contact your family physician, view the BC HealthFiles on salmonella and Food Safety at www.bchealthguide.org/healthfiles, or visit www.bccdc.ca.

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