The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) announced in a press release on Monday, April 4, 2011, that there have been 13 reported E. coli O157:H7 illnesses likely linked to recently recalled Amira Enterprises walnuts. Although the agency is still trying to ascertain the definitive source of the outbreak, it reported that several individuals who experienced symptoms had consumed raw, shelled walnuts.
Food Safety News reported today that:
The case patients live in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. Nine people have been hospitalized and two have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication of E. coli.
According to the informational website about E. coli, maintained by Marler Clark, Symptoms of E. coli poisoning usually occur within two to five days after infection. The initial symptoms often include the sudden onset of cramps and abdominal pain, followed by diarrhea within 24 hours. Diarrhea will become increasingly watery, and then noticeably bloody. People with E. coli infection also often feel nauseated and experience headaches.
HUS is a rare but serious complication of an E. coli infection that occurs when Shiga toxin gets into the bloodstream and causes the part of the kidney that filters toxins out of the blood to break down, causing kidney injury and sometimes failure. Some HUS patients also suffer damage to the pancreas and central nervous system impairment.
As E. coli infections can easily spread from person to person, PHAC is recommending that anyone who suspects that they may be infected should seek immediate medical attention.
PHAC, Health Canada and CFIA are continuing to investigate the E. coli outbreak. In addition, walnut processors and distributors are engaged in this investigation and are cooperating with health officials in order to help determine the source of this outbreak.
PHAC will provide updated information as the outbreak investigation progresses. For more information visit www.foodsafety.gc.ca