British Columbia

Listeria outbreak hits B.C. health-care facilities

B.C. hospitals and carehomes are checking their inventories of sliced meats after at least two cases of listeriosis were identified in patients in B.C.

B.C. hospitals and carehomes are checking their inventories of sliced meats after at least two cases of listeriosis were identified in patients in B.C.

One patient in Fort St. John and another in Prince George were being treated for the same strain of the bacterial infection identified in the nationwide recall of Maple Leaf Foods meat products.

Listeriosis  can be caused by eating contaminated food. A woman from Hamilton, Ont., has died in the outbreak, and officials are investigating whether another four other deaths are linked to it.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said there are 17 confirmed cases of listeriosis nationwide, including 13 in Ontario, two in B.C., one in Saskatchewan and one in Quebec.

On Thursday  Dr. Eleni Galanis, an epidemiologist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, confirmed the centre was investigating three more possible cases of the infection over the past two months. The location of the cases has not been released.

"We're looking at the whole of B.C. being potentially at risk. The distribution of these Maple Leaf Foods is very wide and the cases we're investigating are throughout the province," Galanis said.

On Thursday afternoon, both the Interior Health Authority and the Vancouver Island Health Authority confirmed some of the meat products may have been served to patients at their facilities.

All suspect meat had been removed from the system and staff were attempting to check lot numbers with the recall list, the health authorities said.

The chief medical health officer for Northern Health, Dr. David Bowering, said making the connections between the patients and particular foods is difficult because listeriosis has an incubation period of up to 70 days, during which people can be symptom free.

"There may be people who've eaten these products some time ago who may still become ill. That's why I'm saying we need to keep our eyes open and see what happens from here on in," Galanis said.

Canadian health officials are advising consumers that if they don't know where their deli meat came from, to throw it out.

On Sunday, Maple Leaf Foods announced it had discovered the bacteria that causes listeriosis, Listeria monocytogenes, in Sure Slice roast beef and corned beef produced at a Toronto plant, and it issued a recall on those products.

On Wednesday, Maple Leaf expanded the recall to 23 products, including a variety of turkey, smoked meat and roast beef products.