Alberta's Health Minister Adriana LaGrange provided an update on the Calgary-area E. coli outbreak this morning (Sept. 12).
She was joined by Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Mark Joffe and Children and Family Services Minister Searle Turton for information on the actions being taken to identify the source and prevent further transmission.
As of today, 264 lab-confirmed cases have been connected to the outbreak and 25 patients are being treated in hospital.
Additionally, 22 patients are confirmed to have hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe illness caused by E. coli, and six are receiving peritoneal dialysis at Alberta Children's Hospital.
Minister LaGrange said the exact cause of the outbreak hasn't yet been confirmed.
"We are working with Alberta Health Services to determine the exact source of the contamination., We know the source is very likely linked with the shared kitchen, but we do not know what in the kitchen caused it at this time. This information will be an important piece of the puzzle on how to move forward."
According to Dr. Joffe, when cases started to be reported over the Labour Day long weekend, they were soon linked to the kitchen.
"The emergency department physicians were very astute and quickly recognized that something unusual was happening and they reached out to the medical officer of health on call and to the team, and from there, it was quickly determined that the cases they were seeing were linked to daycare centres and in turn, those daycare centres were linked to one centralized kitchen. The kitchen was closed, and an investigation began immediately."
A health inspection was carried out on Sept. 5.
Several violations were noted, including a pest control issue:
"Two live adult cockroaches were observed on the sides of stainless-steel equipment around the dishwashing area. The tin cat traps by the two separate two-compartment sinks had at least 20 cockroaches on the sticky pads each."
A food handling issue was also highlighted:
"Operator indicated that cold foods were being transported to other locations in excess of 90 minutes without temperature control. Appropriate equipment for keeping food cold during transportation was not available."
According to Joffe, 11 food samples from the kitchen and eight from other daycare sites are being tested.
Once the outbreak was declared, 11 childcare facilities were closed, including Vik Academy in Okotoks.
Of those, six facilities have had their closures rescinded, including Vik Academy, though an Exclusion Order is still in place (children and staff may NOT attend any childcare facility.)