Alberta Health Services is investigating an outbreak of E. coli in Edmonton.
AHS said there have been five confirmed cases of E. coli in the Edmonton zone involving people who ate food from Mama Nita’s Binalot.
“We know they are close in time and we know they are close in place and that they all ate at this restaurant,” Dr. Jasmine Hasselback, AHS Edmonton zone medical officer of health, said. “Beyond that, there’s no common, particular food that they had at this restaurant, otherwise we don’t actually have any other linkages.”
Hasselback said none of the five individuals have required hospitalization or had severe complications.
Anyone who ate at the south Edmonton restaurant starting on March 15 is asked to monitor themselves for symptoms of E. coli. Diarrhea is the predominant symptom associated with the bacteria, according to AHS.
In more serious cases, particularly with children and the elderly, more severe symptoms can develop such as hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure. In the most severe cases, the complications can be life-threatening.
Symptoms usually start one to 10 days after eating food that contains E. coli.
AHS said that while most people who get sick from the bacteria improve on their own, there is a small percentage who develop complications.
“If they do fall ill, they do seek care from a physician and they make it very clear to that physician that they did eat at this restaurant and they could have been exposed to this bug,” Hasselback said.
While the five people who have confirmed cases of E. coli all ate at the restaurant, AHS said it hasn’t been confirmed that Mama Nita’s or its workers are the source.
Environment Public Health inspected the restaurant on Tuesday and the investigation is on-going.
Environment Public Health staff are working with the restaurant to increase safety and reduce risk of E. coli.
“We are working closely with that restaurant and they’re being very cooperative in terms of everything that we can do to reduce the likelihood of any more cases occurring,” Hasselback said.
Mama Nita’s owner, Rachel Ontog, said AHS didn’t give a notice for the restaurant to be shut down but has requested food temperatures are documented.
“At this time, I do not believe that there is sufficient risk that has not been appropriately mitigated to justify closing the restaurant,” Hasselback said.
The restaurant has had eight previous violations since 2016, according to the AHS’s restaurant inspection findings.
Ontog said she isn’t aware of any of her employees showing symptoms of being infected with E. coli.
E. coli is 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 or animal who is carrying the bacteria.