Infectious Diseases

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Food Poisoning

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What is Food poisoning?

Food poisoning refers to a category of enteric diseases that you get when you consume contaminated food or water.

How is Food poisoning spread?

Food poisoning occurs when you eat or drink something that is contaminated with a “germ” that can make you ill.  You can often spread this “germ” to others if you do not wash your hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom and then preparing food for others to consume.

What symptoms should I watch for?

Most people experience headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and sometimes vomiting.  Fever is sometimes present depending on the “germ”.  Dehydration, especially among the very young or very old may be severe, medical care may be required.

What is the treatment for Food poisoning?

Consulting your health care provider is recommended as he/she may suggest antibiotics or treatment focused on symptoms, such as fluid replacement to prevent dehydration.

How do I protect myself and others?

  • Maintain good personal hygiene, including hand washing after using the bathroom and before handling food
  • Prevent cross- contamination of ready-to-eat foods by storing raw and cooked foods separately
  • Cook foods thoroughly
  • Store foods at or below 4°C or at or above 60°C
  • Use foods from approved sources

Is there anything special I need to know?

If you are infected with food poisoning, and you provide services to others, particularly seniors or children, you should not go to work while you are having symptoms.  Your employer will determine when it is safe for you to return to work. It is possible that even after you are feeling better you will still be shedding the bacteria in your stool for a period of time. To prevent spreading the disease to people around you, always practice good hand washing and hygiene.

If you are suspecting that you ate a meal that has made you ill and others in your home or shared the meal are also ill you should:

Call your local health unit to inform them of what you suspect. The investigator may request that you:

  • List all the foods you have eaten for a specific time period
  • Save any uneaten food that you suspect may have made you ill
  • Submit a stool specimen to assist in identifying the “germ” that has made you ill.
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