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6 people in Ontario diagnosed with Listeriosis, Ministry of Health says

Last Updated Jan 22, 2016 at 4:57 pm EST

Electron micrograph of a flagellated Listeria monocytogenes bacterium PHOTO VIA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library /Wikimedia/ public domain

The Ontario Ministry of Health reports that four people in Ontario have been hospitalized with with Listeriosis and six have been diagnosed with the illness.

The Ministry said each person became ill between November 2015 and early January 2016 and that the median age of those affected is 67.

Meanwhile, Health Canada says only three Listeria cases have been confirmed in Ontario with a total of seven in Canada.

The Ontario Ministry of Health claims the numbers are different because they are two separate investigations.

Health Canada said there were one case each in Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The people – most of them women and with an average age of 81 – became sick between September 2015 and early January 2016. One of them has died but it has not been determined if Listeria contributed to the death.

The source of the outbreak has not been confirmed, however prepackaged leafy greens, salad blends, and salad kits are being investigated.

It says the risk to Canadians from this outbreak is low, but given that Listeria can cause severe illness to some high-risk groups, consumers are being asked to review and follow safe food handling practices in an effort to prevent illnesses.

Listeria is a type of bacteria that can be found in food, soil, plants, sewage and other places in nature, and eating food with Listeria on it can cause a serious disease, called Listeriosis. People can get Listeriosis by eating meat, fish, dairy products, plants or vegetables contaminated with Listeria.

The people, most of them women and with an average age of 81, became sick between September 2015 and early January 2016 and one of them has died, but it has not been determined if Listeria contributed to the death.

The agency says the source of the outbreak has not been confirmed, however prepackaged leafy greens, salad blends, and salad kits are being investigated.

It says the risk to Canadians from this outbreak is low, but given that Listeria can cause severe illness to some high-risk groups, consumers are being asked to review and follow safe food handling practices in an effort to prevent illnesses.

Listeria is a type of bacteria that can be found in food, soil, plants, sewage and other places in nature, and eating food with Listeria on it can cause a serious disease, called listeriosis. People can get listeriosis by eating meat, fish, dairy products, plants or vegetables contaminated with Listeria.

Those who are at highest risk of serious illness, according to Health Canada, include pregnant women and unborn or newborn children, adults 65 and over, and people with weakened immune systems.

High-risk individuals should follow safe food handling practices and avoid high risk food items such as uncooked meat and vegetables, unpasteurized milk and cheeses, ready-to-eat meats such as hot dogs and deli meats, and refrigerated smoked seafood and fish.

Foods that are contaminated with Listeria may look, smell and taste normal. Unlike most bacteria, Listeria can survive and sometimes grow on refrigerated foods but can be killed by cooking food properly.

The mild symptoms of listeriosis may include fever, muscle aches, nausea, or diarrhea, while severe symptoms can include headache, poor co-ordination, seizures or neck stiffness.

In the milder form of the disease, symptoms can start the day after eating a contaminated product, but for the more serious form of the disease, the incubation period generally averages about 21 days and can be up to 70 days.

Listeriosis can be treated with antibiotics, but the agency says early diagnosis is key, especially for people in high-risk groups.