N.B. woman 17th listeria death linked to Maple Leaf products
An elderly New Brunswick woman is the 17th person whose death has been linked to the same strain of the bacteria that caused a countrywide recall of Maple Leaf Food products, health officials confirmed Tuesday.
The woman, who was in her early 80s and lived in a nursing home, died in a New Brunswick hospital last week. She had listeriosis.
The news came the same day an article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal lambasted the federal government for failing to protect public health.
New Brunswick Health Department officials said an examination of specimens from the woman matched the strain found in a deadly outbreak that spurred Maple Leaf to recall virtually of all the products produced at a Toronto plant.
Listeriosis was a contributing factor to the woman's death but she was already seriously ill with other health complications at the time, officials said.
At a news conference on Tuesday, officials said an investigation into the death revealed that the nursing home had served a product that has since been recalled. But it is not clear if the woman ate the food or contracted the illness elsewhere.
New Brunswick usually has two or three cases of listeriosis annually.
Health officials said they will not identify the nursing home that the woman was in and residents and family at the nursing home also are not being informed.
This was the first case of listeriosis reported in New Brunswick since the outbreak began in July. The outbreak strain has been confirmed to have either caused or contributed to16 other deaths across the country.
Listeria monocytogenes can be found in unpasteurized dairy products, raw vegetables and meats, and processed foods including deli meats and hot dogs. Ingesting the bacteria can cause serious illness including brain and blood infections that can lead to death. The elderly, infants and people with compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable.
Some of the flu-like symptoms of listeriosis are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe headaches, stiff neck and fever. It can take up to 70 days for symptoms to appear after the contaminated food is consumed.
Throw out foods on recall list, health official urges
Hospitals, long-term care facilities and schools have been notified of the recall, said Dr. Eilish Cleary, New Brunswick's acting chief medical officer of health.
Checks have also been conducted to ensure that recalled products have been removed from those facilities, Cleary said Tuesday.
"I would like to remind the public to be vigilant about products on the recall list, and to go through their fridges and freezers to remove and throw out any of these food items," she said.