Salmonella cases up to 72 confirmed

Health Unit suspects the shared prep area is contamination source

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The number of lab-confirmed cases of salmonella reached 72 yesterday, as the Middlesex-London Health Unit continues to investigate the contamination at Centrespot in the University Community Centre.

The outbreak, which began around Nov. 2, was originally attributed to Pita Pit.

However, new cases of food poisoning have shown the bacteria was present in other food prepared at Centrespot, Dr. Bryna Warshawsky, associate medical officer of health at MLHU, confirmed.

“We suspect the source of contamination was in the shared UCC food preparation area and originally became apparent through people who purchased food at Pita Pit.

“Contamination subsequently spread from the original source to other areas of Centrespot,” Dr. Warshawsky explained.

While some students have avoided eating at Centrespot in the wake of the contamination, others continue to eat on campus.

Jon Cosby, a second-year biology and medical science student, said he is forced to eat lunch on campus every day.

“I don’t have much choice,” he said.

“But I would have really liked to know about it sooner,” Cosby added, noting he had only read about the outbreak one week ago.

Fourth-year psychology student Moira Killoran said she already brings a lunch to school every day, but would likely eat at Centrespot again.

Susan Grindrod, vice-president housing and ancillary services at Western, acknowledged the wide range of student reactions.

“Some are very concerned, but others are unfazed,” she said. “This is the first [salmonella contamination] we’ve had in 25 years.”

Grindrod addressed criticisms leveled against the university’s handling of the outbreak.

“We serve 30,000 people per week, and while it’s nice to have sanitary practices, there’s no 150 per cent guarantee.”

Grindrod assured the university and Health Unit are working hard to determine the cause of the contamination.

The Health Unit has asked everyone who ate at Centrespot on Oct. 31, Nov. 1, Nov. 2, or Nov. 5 to fill out an online questionnaire.

Dr. Warshawsky said feedback is important whether or not a student became ill.

The questionnaire is available at www.uwo.ca/its/doc/mlhu, or linked from the university’s main website.

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