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Caramel apples linked to listeriosis outbreak may have reached Canada

12/23/2014 04:15 EST | Updated 02/22/2015 05:59 EST
Caramel apples linked to an outbreak of listeria infections in the U.S. may  have been imported into Canada, federal officials say.

There are two cases of listeriosis, one in Ontario and one in Manitoba, with the same genetic fingerprint as seen in the U.S. investigation, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said Tuesday.  

Investigators continue to determine if these individuals ate prepackaged caramel apples imported from the U.S. Their health status is not known.

As a precaution, agency officials advised Canadians to not eat commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples imported from the U.S. until further notice, although the risk to Canadians is low.

The advice applies to plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings. The products could have a shelf life of one month, the agency said.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as of Monday, a total of 29 people infected with the outbreak strains have been reported. They were all hospitalized. Five deaths have been reported and the infection contributed to three of the fatalities with one unclear and the fifth unrelated to listeriosis.

Canadian officials recommended if you have a candy apple product and are unsure if it would qualify as a caramel apple, do not consume it.

Instead, put the caramel apple in a plastic bag and throw it out to prevent animals from consuming the product from your garbage. Then wash your hands.

Listeriosis can be treated with antibiotics. Early diagnosis is key, especially for people at high risk, such as pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems, PHAC said.

Only a few people exposed to listeria will develop listeriosis.  Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea, headache and neck stiffness. Severe symptoms can include convulsions.

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