Number of Listeria deaths in Canada reaches 18
Published Friday, September 19, 2008 5:42PM EDT
KELOWNA, B.C. - The death of an elderly woman in British Columbia is linked to a national outbreak, bringing to 18 the number of people who have died in the listeriosis outbreak linked to a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Ontario, health officials confirmed Friday.
The Interior Health Authority said the elderly woman died Sept. 4 at Kelowna General Hospital. They were awaiting lab tests to confirm the link to the strain of Listeria bacteria involved in the Canada-wide recall of some Maple Leaf Food products.
"Indeed the senior from the central Okanagan who passed away on Sept. 8 from a Listeria infection, her Listeria infection bacteria did match the national outbreak strain, due to Maple Leaf Foods," said Dr. Rob Parker, of the health authority.
Interior Health did not identify the woman, saying only she was a senior from the Central Okanagan and had an underlying chronic health condition. It also said she was known to eat deli meats while travelling over the summer.
B.C. has now recorded two deaths from Listeria, the first of them in Nanaimo in late July.
The number of deaths in Canada linked to the outbreak has risen to 18.
The Maple Leaf plant in Toronto, where the Listeria bacterium was found embedded deep inside slicing equipment, reopened a couple of days ago after being closed since Aug. 20.
Parker said unfortunately, no system for producing food is perfect so occasionally contamination of ready-to-eat items can occur.
"I think we've got fairly good surveillance mechanisms in place," Parker told reporters. "I'll be interested in the findings of the national review, because that's who regulates the production of food. I think it'll be interesting to see if there's lessons to be learned at that level."
Listeriosis is a disease caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, commonly referred to as listeria.
Listeriosis is of concern particularly to the very young, the elderly, pregnant women and to persons with poor immune systems. Illness usually occurs from two to 30 days after consuming food contaminated with the bacteria, but can occur up to 90 days later.