Source of E. coli outbreak in N.B. still a mystery
Published Wednesday, July 11, 2012 12:26PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 11, 2012 5:55PM EDT
The source of a potentially deadly strain of E. coli that has sickened four people in the Fredericton, New Brunswick, area continues to elude public health officials.
CTV Atlantic reports that three of the four people sickened in this latest outbreak are too sick to be thoroughly questioned about where they might have contracted the bacteria.
Eighteen-year-old Micaella Boer is one victim, now undergoing treatment at the Saint John Regional Hospital where her parents have been keeping vigil since last week.
“It’s concerning. As a parent you’re always worried for your child,” Scott Boer told CTV Atlantic. “Micaella probably on Monday, just after Canada Day, started getting stomach aches and complaining of cramps, some diarrhea, and by Tuesday it turned into bloody diarrhea and then later Tuesday night, we took her into emergency to get her checked out.”
Boer's parents said the recent high school graduate's friend was admitted to the same hospital the next day, also suffering the effects of E. coli.
The province’s health minister said that the focus at the moment is on treating those who have acquired the bacteria.
“Right now, for those cases we’re dealing with right now, the focus is on the treatment of those being affected and seeking information so we can find the sources of E. coli,” said Madeline Dube.
She also said the ministry was thinking of the families affected.
“Certainly our thoughts and prayers are with the family as well,” she said.
The province's acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Denis Allard has since said in a statement that the infecting strain is the same one identified during the 2000 tragedy that claimed seven lives in Walkerton, Ont.
This current strain of the potentially deadly bacteria is also concerning many local businesses.
Bruce McCormack from the Fredericton Downtown Business group says E. coli outbreaks put consumers and diners on edge.
“The problem with E. coli, it could come from grocery stores, other restaurants,” he said. “But our restaurants do very good. From our viewpoint, we don’t need any bad news stories about E. coli in our restaurants.”
Just last month, the New Brunswick Department of Health released the results of its investigation into an April outbreak that infected at least 13 people in the province.
Those cases, centred in the Miramichi area, were traced back to contaminated romaine lettuce served at a local restaurant. In the course of that probe, officials determined the same strain of E. coli had turned up in Quebec and California. The lettuce was pulled from the market as a result.
Public health officials expect it could take up to a week before lab tests on this latest outbreak are available. In the meantime, experts advise regular hand washing, thorough washing of fruits and vegetables and the proper cooking of meat as critical, but simple steps to reducing your chance of being infected.
Food contaminated with the Escherichia coli bacteria may not look or smell spoiled, but can cause serious and life-threatening illness.
This particular strain -- E. coli O157:H7 -- has been identified as especially dangerous to people, as its effects can include severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea, and can lead to a potentially-fatal kidney disease.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Nick Moore