E. Coli Outbreak Suspected in New Brunswick

These are e Coli.

These are e Coli. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Department of Health suspects E. coli is the source of health problems being experienced by 24 people in Miramichi, Bathurst and Saint John.  Dr. Eilish Cleary, the province’s chief medical officer of health, issued a statement on Friday confirming the E. coli outbreak.

She said 20 cases have cropped up in Miramichi and two in Saint John and two in Bathurst.

“To date, 24 cases of bloody diarrhea suspected to be caused by E. coli have been reported in the province, with 20 in Miramichi, two in Saint John and two in Bathurst,” Cleary said in a statement.

“While laboratory testing continues, several cases have been confirmed as E. coli O157:H7, a severe strain that can sometimes cause serious illness.”

Dr. Denis Allard, the deputy chief medical officer of health, said eight people have been hospitalized in connection with the bacteria.

“We do have a few of the cases that have been hospitalized, but we don’t have reports of serious illness and certainly we haven’t had any deaths,” he said.

Allard said the provincial government has not determined the source of the bacteria.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been involved in testing some food products.

Allard said the department is still waiting on some of the lab tests.  While there have been some common food sources, Allard said it is too early to pinpoint the cause of the outbreak.  The people affected by the bacteria range from those in their teens to mid-40s. The average age is 34, according to Allard.

New Brunswick normally reports about a dozen cases of E. coli each year.  “So the fact that we are investigating a cluster of 20 or so people with bloody diarrhea … is fairly unusual, especially with most of them concentrated in a small area like the Miramichi,” Allard said.

The department is advising anyone who is experiencing bloody diarrhea, which is a common symptom of E. coli 0157:H7, to see their health-care provider.  The public health office is warning certain groups are particularly at risk of developing serious complications. Those groups of people include: pregnant women, young children, seniors and people with a weakened immune system, such as those on chemotherapy.

The health office is advising people to take several steps to avoid the bacteria:

  • regular hand washing, especially after using the washroom and when preparing food
  • washing fruits and vegetables
  • properly cooking meat
  • using warm soapy water or a chlorine-based or other approved sanitizers to clean knives, cutting boards, utensils, your hands and any counters or surfaces that have come in contact with food, especially meat and fish.

The E. coli strain in New Brunswick is the same as the one that caused the deadly outbreak in Walkerton, Ont., in 2000.  It secretes a powerful toxin that can cause severe illness, high blood pressure and kidney damage.

courtesy CBC NEWS

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