Calgary

Alberta CMOH says E. coli numbers starting to 'trend in the right direction'

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said he's "encouraged" by the latest numbers following a weeks-long E. coli outbreak in Calgary, which has left hundreds of kids sick and closed multiple daycares. 

It's possible cause of outbreak will never be determined, chief medical officer of health said

'Our commitment is to complete a very thorough investigation': Alberta's CMOH on E. coli outbreak

9 months ago
Duration 1:09
Calgary's E. coli outbreak has sent several children to hospital, with some on dialysis after developing hemolytic uremic syndrome. The cause of the outbreak is still under investigation, said the chief medical officer of health Dr. Mark Joffe on Tuesday.

Alberta's chief medical officer of health said he believes that numbers are starting to trend in the right direction following a weeks-long E. coli outbreak in Calgary, which has left hundreds of kids sick and closed multiple daycares. 

This comes after an outbreak of the shiga toxin-producing E. coli, which can cause serious issues. The outbreak, which is believed to be linked to Calgary daycares using a shared kitchen, has sent children to hospital, with some on dialysis after developing hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disease which affects the kidneys. The cause of the outbreak is still under investigation. 

Several other daycares have been closed or partially closed due to what is believed to be secondary spread. 

Dr. Mark Joffe, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said at a press conference Tuesday that there are 348 lab-confirmed cases connected to the outbreak, and 27 secondary spread cases — the same figures that were reported by Alberta Health Services a day prior. 

WATCH |  Health officials answer questions on E. coli outbreak in Calgary 

Update on Calgary E. coli outbreak

9 months ago
Duration 20:07
Alberta government ministers and the chief medical officer of health give an update on the E. coli outbreak in Calgary.

"This has been a challenging and very difficult time. And as I said last week, we're still not out of the woods. However, we are encouraged by falling daily case numbers and a sustained decrease in children who require hospital care," Joffe said. 

"This is a cause for cautious optimism as we move to what we hope will soon be the end of this extremely serious outbreak." 

Eight children are receiving care in hospital, all of whom have hemolytic uremic syndrome, and two are on dialysis. Those numbers are both down by one from Monday. 

"We must remember that these are not just numbers. These are Albertans, most of them under the age of five," Joffe said. 

The cause of the outbreak is not yet clear, but Joffe said AHS is "committed to coming back with more information," regarding the source of the outbreak. 

"It is possible that we are never going to know the exact source of the outbreak, but we are doing our very best to narrow it down … that will inform future steps and future prevention."

He said investigators have looked at multiple food samples, and there has not yet been any E. coli identified in those samples. The investigators are also interviewing daycare and kitchen staff. 

"There are thousands of pieces of data that are brought together that have to be looked at very carefully to ultimately, hopefully give us the answer," Joffe said. 

Daycares remain closed

There are six daycares under closure or partial closure due to secondary spread, and Joffe said it's important for parents to follow public health guidance. 

"If your daycare is closed, please respect why this is done and keep your children at home. Only send your child to another facility if they've tested negative for E.coli, if they have no symptoms and if they've been given clearance from AHS."

He also advised all daycare operators in the Calgary area to confirm the health and the daycare history of children who are new to a facility. 

Joffe said the kitchen believed to be linked to the outbreak remains closed indefinitely. 

"There are no plans to reopen it," he said.

Adriana LaGrange, Alberta's minister of health, said that there is a thorough investigation underway, and they are waiting for the results of that investigation to see if further action — including an inquest into the outbreak — is needed. 

"If it warrants further action, then we'll take that further action," she said.

Minister of Children and Family Services Serle Turton said the internal process to see how many shared kitchens serving daycares are present in the province has begun. 

He added that the province is working to get its one-time payment to families out as soon as possible. 

"We're working with different ministries to be able to get the portal opened up so that families can access these funds. I know there's a lot of anxiety about when these funds will be coming out and we're doing everything in our power to get these funds released as soon as possible," Turton said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jade Markus

Digital journalist

Jade Markus is a former digital journalist at CBC Calgary.