OTTAWA, Jan. 8, 2013 /CNW/ -
Why you should take note
Products contaminated with E. coli O157 can pose a serious public health risk.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has been working with its health and
food safety partners on an investigation into 15 cases of E. coli O157:H7 illness. There are six cases in New Brunswick, five in Nova
Scotia and four in Ontario. The majority of cases are recovered or are
Investigations into outbreaks of food-borne illness can be complex.
Since early January 2013, the Agency has been leading a committee to
investigate these illnesses that includes public health and food safety
experts from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada and
Provincial Health Authorities. The committee meets regularly to share
and review the latest information and determine what actions should be
taken to protect Canadians.
Based on the ongoing epidemiological and microbiological investigations
conducted to date, it is likely that the people involved all got sick
from the same source. More information about the epidemiological investigation is also available.
We don't know what the source of the illness is, but that investigation
Province / Territory
Total confirmed cases
E. coli O157 food-borne illnesses are not uncommon in Canada. In recent years,
an average of about 440 cases of this type of E. coli infection was reported annually in Canada.
What you should do
Most strains of E. coli are harmless; however, some strains, such as E. coli O157:H7, can make people sick, causing severe stomach cramps, diarrhea
and vomiting. Serious complications of an E. coli O157:H7 infection can include kidney failure.
If you think you are sick with an E. coli infection, consult a healthcare professional.
Symptoms of an E. coli O157:H7 infection
Like other food-borne illnesses, the symptoms of E. coli infection mainly involve the gut. Symptoms may vary from person to
person; however, they often include:
severe stomach cramps;
diarrhea (often watery and may develop into bloody);
fever (generally not very high—usually less than 38.5˚C/101˚F).
Symptoms usually last five to seven days.
Around 5 to 10 per cent of those who get sick from E. coli O157:H7 overall and about 15 per cent of young children and the elderly
develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can be fatal. Symptoms
of HUS vary. Some people have seizures or strokes and some need blood
transfusions and kidney dialysis. Others live with side effects such as
permanent kidney damage.
Who is most at risk?
Infections can occur among people of all ages, however symptoms are
likely to be more severe among the very young and the elderly.
Pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are also at high
risk of developing serious complications.
How to protect yourself
Proper hygiene and safe food handling and preparation practices are key
to preventing the spread of all food-borne illnesses, including E. coli.
Hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of food-borne
Contaminated foods may look and smell normal. It is important to ensure
that you wash your fruits and vegetables before eating them, and cook
meat to a safe internal temperature.
General food safety
Everyone should practice these general food safety precautions (phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/fst-csa-eng.php) at all times.
The Public Health Agency of Canada's E. coli O157:H7 fact sheet (phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/fs-fi/ecoli-eng.php)
The Public Health Agency of Canada's Anatomy of a Foodborne Illness Outbreak (phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/anato-eng.php)
The Public Health Agency of Canada's video series, Something you ate? (phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/videos/index-eng.php)
The Government of Canada food safety web portal (foodsafety)
SOURCE: Public Health Agency of Canada
For further information:
Public Health Agency of Canada