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Bacteria is the likely cause of illness at turkey dinner: medical officer

12/12/2014 12:05 EST | Updated 02/11/2015 05:59 EST
NACKAWIC, N.B. - As an investigation continues after one person died and another 30 became sick following a community supper in New Brunswick, the province's acting chief medical officer says the bacteria Clostridium perfringens is usually associated with these kinds of cases.

An 87-year-old woman died and others became sick after the turkey dinner in Nackawic last week.

Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday that investigators have interviewed 60 of the 100 people who attended the dinner, including those who had symptoms of gastrointestinal illness, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

"Getting all of that information and putting it all together, the most likely culprit probably is going to turn out to be the bacteria Clostridium perfringens," she said.

The medical officer said the bacteria is known to grow in meat and poultry.

"There's a definite possibility it came from the turkey that was served," she said, adding that formal confirmation should come within a few days.

Russell said investigators are considering possible food handling issues, such as the heating and thawing of the turkey, but haven't come to definitive conclusions.

Russell also said autopsy results indicate the woman's death wasn't related to underlying medical conditions and was tied to dehydration from diarrhea.

There are no licence requirements for community dinners in the province, she said, but community groups planning similar dinners should read food safety recommendations on the provincial government's website and call the Health Department to request that an inspector provide food handling training.

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