Salmonella linked to Pita Pit

15 confirmed cases of poisoning, two students hospitalized

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

UCC Pita Pit

Jon Purdy

An unfortunate outbreak of salmonella has caused several students to purge their pitas.

At least 15 lab-confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning have been linked to food served at Pita Pit located in University Community Centre Centrespot, Dr. Tom MacFarlane, director of Student Health Services, said yesterday.

An additional 18 students reported salmonella-like symptoms after eating at the Pita Pit, but lab tests have not yet confirmed these cases, said Cathie Walker, manager of infectious diseases at the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

Two people have been hospitalized due to dehydration, she added.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit received seven reports of Salmonella poisoning from students last week.

Walker said the Middlesex-London Health Unit is still investigating the exact cause of the outbreak. Based on patients’ recollection, the tainted pitas were consumed sometime between Nov. 1-3.

“It’s difficult to say which food item caused it, as we are relying on patients to accurately recall when and what they ate,” Walker said.

“It could be anything,” Dr. MacFarlane added, noting chicken, lettuce and tomato were among the most commonly reported foods.

Whatever the cause, Dr. MacFarlane confirmed the hazard has passed. “The contaminated materials are now gone,” he said.

Salmonella poisoning is a bacterial infection that is usually passed on through contaminated food, but can also be transmitted from person to person. Symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.

Dr. MacFarlane advised students experiencing these symptoms to seek medical attention.

Walker said the major symptoms can take up to 72 hours to manifest, although patients usually feel sick between 12 and 36 hours after consumption. She cautioned infected individuals can still pass on the bacteria even after symptoms have disappeared.

A recent inspection showed food-handling practices at Pita Pit were safe. “There were no red flags,” Walker assured.

“Well, I’m never eating there again,” Alessandra Sirizzotti, a second-year social science student, said. “I’ve been food poisoned a bunch of times before. It’s not fun.”

First-year international development student Sarah Harvison said she had heard about the salmonella outbreak, but would continue to eat at Pita Pit anyway.

Walker stressed handwashing is the best way to stop the spread of bacteria. “Always prepare meat and vegetables separately,” she added.

Dr. MacFarlane assured salmonella is not life-threatening, and recommended infected individuals should rest and drink lots of fluids.

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