The federal government is warning Canadians about a salmonella outbreak affecting six provinces, including British Columbia.

In a statement issued Friday, the Public Health Agency of Canada said the source of the outbreak has not been identified, adding that Ottawa is working with provincial health agencies as well as the Canada Food Inspection Agency to investigate.

As of Friday, there had been 63 confirmed cases of salmonella infection, the government said, including 23 in B.C., 10 in Alberta, eight in Saskatchewan, 10 in Manitoba, 10 in Ontario and two in Quebec.

"Individuals became sick between November 2018 and March 2019," the warning read. "Eighteen individuals have been hospitalized. Two deaths have been reported; however, it has not been determined whether salmonella was a contributing cause in these deaths. Individuals who became ill are between one and 87 years of age."

There could be more infections that have not been reported, PHAC added.

According to the warning, symptoms of salmonella typically start about 72 hours after exposure and include fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, a headache, nausea and vomiting.

Infants, children, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness, PHAC said.

As it investigates, the agency is offering Canadians safety tips to avoid infection, including washing your hands before and after preparing food and not eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish, shellfish or egg products.

Other tips include:

  • Cook all raw foods such as meats, poultry, fish and eggs (including raw frozen food products) to a safe internal temperature. Use a digital food thermometer to verify the temperature. Insert the thermometer stem into the thickest part of the food, away from bone, fat or gristle. Make sure it is inserted all the way to the middle.
  • Microwave cooking of raw foods such as meats, poultry, fish and eggs (including raw frozen food products) is not recommended because of the possibility of uneven heating.
  • Use a separate plate, cutting board and utensils when handling raw meat or poultry products to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria like salmonella.
  • Prevent cross-contamination: Do not re-use plates, cutting boards or utensils that have come in contact with raw meat and poultry products to serve the cooked product unless they have been thoroughly washed.
  • Use paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces, or change dishcloths daily to avoid the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria, and avoid using sponges as they are harder to keep bacteria-free.
  • Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils before and after preparing food. Use a kitchen sanitizer (following the directions on the container) or a bleach solution (5 mL household bleach to 750 mL of water), and rinse with water.
  • Do not prepare food for other people if you think you are sick with a salmonella infection or suffering from any other contagious illness causing diarrhea.