Alberta Health Services (AHS) Environmental Public Health has expanded its investigation into the source of an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7, beyond cases directly linked to an Edmonton restaurant late last month.
The number of lab-confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 has increased to 34, including 11 patients who have needed hospital care, and one patient who has died likely due to E. coli infection.
While 21 of these lab-confirmed cases are linked to Mama Nita’s Binalot restaurant in Edmonton, AHS no longer has public health concerns related to this business.
However, AHS is investigating 13 lab-confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 that have no known links to Mama Nita’s Binalot.
At this time, we have not identified the source of these cases, however we do believe they are linked to the initial outbreak.
“This outbreak is extremely complex, however AHS, in partnership with other provincial and federal agencies, is doing all we can to protect the health of Albertans. The risk of illness remains very low,” said Dr. Chris Sikora, Medical Officer of Health, Edmonton Zone.
Anyone who has symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 should contact Health Link. The predominant symptom associated with E. coli O157:H7 is diarrhea, which may be bloody. In more severe forms of the disease, hemolytic uremic syndrome (a form of kidney failure) can develop.
Symptoms usually start one to 10 days after eating food contaminated with E. coli bacteria. If you are concerned or start to develop symptoms, please visit a healthcare clinic or your family physician as soon as possible. It is important that you mention your possible exposure to E. coli O157:H7.
Children, the elderly and the immunocompromised are at greater risk of complications from this strain of E. coli. The majority of individuals who get sick from E. coli O157:H7 will improve on their own within 10 days, but a small proportion may develop complications.
AHS has worked closely with the owners of Mama Nita’s Binalot since it was identified that a cluster of people with lab confirmed E. coli O157:H7 ate at the restaurant. The owners have taken significant steps to manage this issue, including voluntarily closing until AHS was confident the restaurant could reopen without presenting a risk to the public.
Environmental public health staff have worked closely with the restaurant operator and staff to increase safety and reduce risk. These measures include increased hand hygiene measures, food safety re-education for staff, some minor renovations, and close monitoring of food handling practices.
As always, Albertans are reminded to stay home when sick, refrain from preparing foods while sick with diarrhea, and always wash hands well with soap and warm water before preparing foods or drinks or before eating or drinking.
Anyone with questions or concerns can contact Health Link to speak to a registered nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by dialing 811.
E. coli infections are generally caused when a person eats food or drinks water that is contaminated with human or animal feces, or through direct contact with a person who is sick or with animals that carry the bacteria.
Albertans should always follow these proper hygiene and safe food handling and preparation practices, to reduce their risk of E. coli infection:
- Wash your hands with hot, soapy water often, including after you go to the washroom, before you prepare food, after you touch raw meat, and after you change diapers.
- Avoid preparing food for others when ill with diarrhea.
- Cook beef and pork to at least 71 °C (160 °F).
- Thoroughly wash vegetables and fruits before eating.
- Thoroughly wash all kitchen tools and surfaces that have touched raw meat.
- Use only pasteurized milk, dairy, and juice products.
- Be sure that water used for drinking or food preparation is from approved sources (including municipal water supply or properly maintained/treated well water).
- When you travel to countries that may have unsafe drinking water, don’t use ice or drink tap water, and avoid consuming raw fruits and vegetables, except those with skin that you peel yourself.
Note to media: Dr. Jasmine Hasselback, Medical Officer of Health, Edmonton Zone, will be available to speak to media at 3 p.m., at Coronation Plaza (14310 111 Ave NW).
Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.