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Food-borne Illness

Food-borne illness happens when someone eats food that is contaminated with germs (such as bacteria, viruses or parasites) or chemicals and become ill. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that 1 in 8 Canadians become ill due to a food-borne illness each year. 

Signs and symptoms of food-borne illness include:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • In rare cases, death. 
Symptoms may occur within a few hours of eating up to many days later.
 
People that are most likely to become sick are:
  • Children and infants.
  • Elderly people.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Immuno-compromised individuals. 
Food-borne illness often occurs after poor food handling practices - many of which can be prevented. Learn more about cleaning and sanitizing. 

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, some common causes of food-borne illness are:

Norovirus
A type of virus that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramps. The virus is very contagious and can affect everyone. These viruses are easily spread in group settings such as cruise ships, nursing homes, schools etc.

Campylobacter jejuni
A bacteria typically found in the gut of poultry, cattle, wild birds, cats, and dogs. It has also been found in untreated surface water. It can cause diarrhea, stomach pain, fever, nausea, and sometimes vomiting.

E. Coli
A bacteria typically found in the gut of poultry, cattle and other animals. It can cause severe stomach cramps, watery or bloody diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, headache, and little to no fever.

Salmonella
A bacteria found natural in the gut of animals. Can cause fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea, and vomiting.

Clostridium perfringens
A spore-forming bacteria that is found in soil, dust, sewage and the gut of animals. It can cause bloating, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle ache, nausea, water diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain.

Listeria
A bacteria found in food, soil, plants, and sewage. It can cause vomiting, nausea, cramps, diarrhea, severe headaches, constipation, and persistent fever.  

If you think you have a food-borne illness, report it to your local health unit to allow for a timely investigation.

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