On Friday, Alberta Health Services (AHS) said there were 142 lab-confirmed cases linked to the outbreak, and 26 kids were stable in hospital. On Thursday, the outbreak included 128 lab-confirmed cases, and 25 patients were in hospital.
“We are thinking of all the children affected by the E.coli outbreak. We know this is an extremely stressful time for the parents and families impacted. We are ready and prepared to provide assistance to Alberta health partners as needed,” Holland told Global News.
The minister has not yet elaborated on how the government will help and when.
Calgary Zone medical officer of health Dr. Franco Rizzuti said 11 of the current hospitalized patients have more serious illness than the bloody diarrhea that is part of a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection, which includes hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and other complications.
Rizzuti said a “small number” of kids were requiring dialysis, “however, this number is too small to provide for privacy reasons.” Dialysis machines were brought in from other AHS sites in case they are needed in the coming days.
Despite the daily rise in reported E.coli cases, Rizzuti says he expects case numbers to stabilize this weekend and into next week.
AHS has not yet identified a source of the infection. In total, 11 daycares have been shuttered “until issues are resolved.”
Rizzuti said the rate of cases is consistent with the working theory that a central kitchen — a facility that produces food for multiple locations — is the source of the outbreak.
The officer of health noted that when he declared the outbreak over the weekend, following multiple reports from hospitals of children with bloody diarrhea, the kitchen in question was in compliance with health inspections.
However, according to documents posted on the Alberta Health Services website, The Fueling Brains Academy Kitchen and one of the Fueling Brains daycare locations had previously been found in violation of public health regulations related to food handling.
A professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine said this outbreak is “very unusual.”
“This is probably the largest outbreak in children less than five years of age associated with a single point source,” Dr. Stephen Freedman said Friday.
“In this past week, we’ve seen numbers that we typically would see in four years.”
E.coli stands for Escherichia coli, which is a type of fecal coliform bacteria. Jason Tetro, microbiologist and author of The Germ Code, explains that the bacteria is found in animal and human feces and survives in most environments.
The bacteria spreads through fecal matter from an infected animal or human, which leads to the contamination of hands or food that eventually end up in people’s mouths.
Adults infected with E.coli will likely only experience stomach cramps and dehydration, Tetro says. Children are more vulnerable to severe outcomes due to their heightened susceptibility to toxins.
“If you find yourself in a situation where a child has been infected with a toxin-producing E.coli, you want to make sure that they have regular medical treatment and observation,” Tetro said.
“The sooner that we can pick up some troubles, whether it be stress, inflammation or whatever, the better the likelihood is that we’re going to be able to do what’s necessary to stop the problems that are occurring.”
–With files from Global News’ Adam Toy.