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Public Health Notice - Outbreak of E.coli infections

October 5, 2015 – Final Update

This is the final update related to this investigation as the outbreak appears to be over.

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada has been collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157, commonly called E.coli. Given that there have been no new cases since August 28, 2015, the outbreak appears to be over and the investigation is coming to a close.

Although the outbreak appears to be over, Canadians are always reminded to follow safe food handling practices to avoid illness.

E. coli are bacteria that live naturally in the gut/feces of a variety of animals including cattle and poultry. People can also carry the bacteria in their gut. Common sources of E. coli are raw or undercooked food products that have been contaminated with the bacteria. Most E. coli are harmless to people, but some varieties carry genes that allow them to cause illness.

Most people with an E. coli infection are ill for a few days and then recover fully, however infections can sometimes be life threatening.

Investigation Summary

In total, there were 29 cases of E.coli with a matching genetic fingerprint reported in Alberta (1), Ontario (10), Quebec (16) and Nova Scotia (2). A previous update on September 14 communicated a total of 31 cases of E.coli related to this investigation; however, enhanced lab testing has since ruled out two of those cases (Ontario (1), Quebec (1). Of the 29 cases, individuals became sick between July 6 and September 4, 2015, with the peak of illnesses reported to date occurring between July 25 and August 1, 2015. The majority of cases (52%) were male, with an average age of 23 years. Seven cases were hospitalized but all have recovered or are recovering.

The Public Health Agency routinely investigates multi-provincial gastro-intestinal illness outbreaks, including E.coli. The purpose of each investigation is to determine if illnesses are linked to the same source.

Who is most at risk?

Although anyone can get an E.coli infection, pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems, young children and older adults are most at risk for developing serious complications.

What you should do

The following tips will help you reduce your risk of infection with E. coli or other food-borne illnesses, and are especially important to remember during barbecue season:

  • Always ensure your foods are thoroughly cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them, clean counters and cutting boards and wash your hands regularly.
  • Bacteria can grow in the danger zone between 4 °C and 60 °C (40 °F to 140 °F). Keep cold foods cold at or below 4 °C (40 °F) and keep hot foods hot at or above 60 °C (140 °F).
  • Keep refrigerators clean and at a temperature below 4 °C (40 °F). Install a thermometer in your fridge to be sure.
  • Place raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Use containers that are large enough to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other food or touching other food.
  • Keep raw food away from other food while shopping, storing, preparing and serving foods.
  • Read labels and follow cooking and storage instructions for all food. When buying food, make sure to check the “best before” date, and if the product has expired, let the store know.
  • Use warm soapy water to clean knives, cutting boards, utensils, your hands and any surfaces that have come in contact with food, especially meat and fish.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of cooking.
  • Freeze or consume leftovers within four days of cooking. Always reheat leftovers until steaming hot before eating.

Symptoms

People infected with E.coli can have a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, though they can still spread the infection to others. Others feel as though they have a bad case of upset stomach. Still others become seriously ill and must be hospitalized.

The following symptoms can appear within one to ten days after contact with the bacteria:

  • severe stomach cramps
  • watery or bloody diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • headache
  • slight fever

Most symptoms clear up within five to ten days. However, some people who are infected with E.coli develop life-threatening symptoms, including kidney failure, seizures and stroke. While most will recover completely, others may suffer permanent health effects, like kidney damage, and some may die.

There is no treatment for E.coli infections, other than monitoring the illness, providing comfort, and preventing dehydration through proper hydration and nutrition. People who develop complications may need further treatment, like dialysis for kidney failure. You should contact your health care provider if symptoms persist.

What the Public Health Agency of Canada is doing

The Public Health Agency of Canada in collaboration with federal and provincial/territorial partners, will continue to monitor for and investigate any new cases of E.coli that may be related to this outbreak as part of its routine surveillance activities.

Additional Information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
(613) 957-2983

September 14, 2015 - Update

This notice has been updated to include five additional cases of E.coli O157 that have been reported in Ontario (2) and Quebec (3).

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157, commonly called E.coli. A specific source or product has not been identified yet, and the investigation is ongoing. The Agency will update Canadians when new information becomes available.

At this time, the risk to Canadians is low. However, Canadians are reminded to follow safe food handling practices to avoid illness.

E. coli are bacteria that live naturally in the gut/feces of a variety of animals including cattle and poultry. People can also carry the bacteria in their gut. Common sources of E. coli are raw or undercooked food products that have been contaminated with the bacteria. Most E. coli are harmless to people, but some varieties carry genes that allow them to cause illness.

Most people with an E. coli infection are ill for a few days and then recover fully, however infections can sometimes be life threatening.

Ongoing Investigation

There have been 31 cases of E.coli with a matching genetic fingerprint reported in Alberta (1), Ontario (11), Quebec (17) and Nova Scotia (2). Individuals became sick between July 6 and September 4, 2015, with the peak of illnesses reported to date occurring between July 25 and August 1, 2015. The majority of cases (52%) were male, with an average age of 25 years. Seven cases have been hospitalized but all have recovered or are recovering.

The Public Health Agency routinely investigates multi-provincial gastro-intestinal illness outbreaks, including E.coli. The purpose of each investigation is to determine if illnesses are linked to the same source.

Who is most at risk?

Although anyone can get an E.coli infection, pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems, young children and older adults are most at risk for developing serious complications.

What you should do

The following tips will help you reduce your risk of infection with E. coli or other food-borne illnesses, and are especially important to remember during barbecue season:

  • Always ensure your foods are thoroughly cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them, clean counters and cutting boards and wash your hands regularly.
  • Bacteria can grow in the danger zone between 4 °C and 60 °C (40 °F to 140 °F). Keep cold foods cold at or below 4 °C (40 °F) and keep hot foods hot at or above 60 °C (140 °F).
  • Keep refrigerators clean and at a temperature below 4 °C (40 °F). Install a thermometer in your fridge to be sure.
  • Place raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Use containers that are large enough to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other food or touching other food.
  • Keep raw food away from other food while shopping, storing, preparing and serving foods.
  • Read labels and follow cooking and storage instructions for all food. When buying food, make sure to check the "best before" date, and if the product has expired, let the store know.
  • Use warm soapy water to clean knives, cutting boards, utensils, your hands and any surfaces that have come in contact with food, especially meat and fish.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of cooking.
  • Freeze or consume leftovers within four days of cooking. Always reheat leftovers until steaming hot before eating.

Symptoms

People infected with E.coli can have a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, though they can still spread the infection to others. Others feel as though they have a bad case of upset stomach. Still others become seriously ill and must be hospitalized.

The following symptoms can appear within one to ten days after contact with the bacteria:

  • severe stomach cramps
  • watery or bloody diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • headache
  • slight fever

Most symptoms clear up within five to ten days. However, some people who are infected with E.coli develop life-threatening symptoms, including kidney failure, seizures and stroke. While most will recover completely, others may suffer permanent health effects, like kidney damage, and some may die.

There is no treatment for E.coli infections, other than monitoring the illness, providing comfort, and preventing dehydration through proper hydration and nutrition. People who develop complications may need further treatment, like dialysis for kidney failure. You should contact your health care provider if symptoms persist.

What the Public Health Agency of Canada is doing

The Public Health Agency of Canada in collaboration with federal and provincial/territorial partners, will continue to monitor for and investigate any new cases of E.coli that may be related to this outbreak as part of its routine surveillance activities.

Additional Information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
613-957-2983

September 2, 2015 - Update

This notice has been updated to include two additional cases of E.coli O157 that have been reported in Ontario.

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157, commonly called E.coli. A specific source or product has not been identified yet, and the investigation is ongoing. The Agency will update Canadians when new information becomes available.

At this time, the risk to Canadians is low. However, Canadians are reminded to follow safe food handling practices to avoid illness.

E. coli are bacteria that live naturally in the gut/feces of a variety of animals including cattle and poultry. People can also carry the bacteria in their gut. Common sources of E. coli are raw or undercooked food products that have been contaminated with the bacteria. Most E. coli are harmless to people, but some varieties carry genes that allow them to cause illness.

Most people with an E. coli infection are ill for a few days and then recover fully, however infections can sometimes be life threatening.

Ongoing Investigation

There have been 26 cases of E.coli with a matching genetic fingerprint reported in Alberta (1), Ontario (9), Quebec (14) and Nova Scotia (2). Individuals became sick between July 6 and August 17, 2015, with the peak of illnesses reported to date occurring between July 25 and August 1, 2015. The majority of cases (58%) were male, with an average age of 26 years. Six cases have been hospitalized but all have recovered or are recovering.

The Public Health Agency routinely investigates multi-provincial gastro-intestinal illness outbreaks, including E.coli. The purpose of each investigation is to determine if illnesses are linked to the same source.

Who is most at risk?

Although anyone can get an E.coli infection, pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems, young children and older adults are most at risk for developing serious complications.

What you should do

The following tips will help you reduce your risk of infection with E. coli or other food-borne illnesses, and are especially important to remember during barbecue season:

  • Always ensure your foods are thoroughly cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them, clean counters and cutting boards and wash your hands regularly.
  • Bacteria can grow in the danger zone between 4 °C and 60 °C (40 °F to 140 °F). Keep cold foods cold at or below 4 °C (40 °F) and keep hot foods hot at or above 60 °C (140 °F).
  • Keep refrigerators clean and at a temperature below 4 °C (40 °F). Install a thermometer in your fridge to be sure.
  • Place raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Use containers that are large enough to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other food or touching other food.
  • Keep raw food away from other food while shopping, storing, preparing and serving foods.
  • Read labels and follow cooking and storage instructions for all food. When buying food, make sure to check the "best before" date, and if the product has expired, let the store know.
  • Use warm soapy water to clean knives, cutting boards, utensils, your hands and any surfaces that have come in contact with food, especially meat and fish.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of cooking.
  • Freeze or consume leftovers within four days of cooking. Always reheat leftovers until steaming hot before eating.

Symptoms

People infected with E.coli can have a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, though they can still spread the infection to others. Others feel as though they have a bad case of upset stomach. Still others become seriously ill and must be hospitalized.

The following symptoms can appear within one to ten days after contact with the bacteria:

  • severe stomach cramps
  • watery or bloody diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • headache
  • slight fever

Most symptoms clear up within five to ten days. However, some people who are infected with E.coli develop life-threatening symptoms, including kidney failure, seizures and stroke. While most will recover completely, others may suffer permanent health effects, like kidney damage, and some may die.

There is no treatment for E.coli infections, other than monitoring the illness, providing comfort, and preventing dehydration through proper hydration and nutrition. People who develop complications may need further treatment, like dialysis for kidney failure. You should contact your health care provider if symptoms persist.

What the Public Health Agency of Canada is doing

The Public Health Agency of Canada in collaboration with federal and provincial/territorial partners, will continue to monitor for and investigate any new cases of E.coli that may be related to this outbreak as part of its routine surveillance activities.

Additional Information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
613-957-2983

August 24, 2015 - Original Notice

Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157, commonly called E.coli. A specific source or product has not been identified yet, and the investigation is ongoing. The Agency will update Canadians when new information becomes available.

At this time, the risk to Canadians is low. However, Canadians are reminded to follow safe food handling practices to avoid illness.

E. coli are bacteria that live naturally in the intestines of cattle, poultry and other animals. Primary sources of E. coli illness are raw or undercooked meat products, raw dairy products, and raw fruits and vegetables that have come in contact with feces from infected animals. Most E. coli are harmless to humans, but some varieties carry genes that allow them to cause illness.

Most people with an E. coli infection are ill for a few days and then recover fully, however infections can sometimes be life threatening.

Ongoing Investigation

There have been 24 cases of E.coli with a matching genetic fingerprint reported in Alberta (1), Ontario (7), Quebec (14) and Nova Scotia (2). Individuals became sick between July 12 and August 8, 2015, with the peak of illnesses reported to date occurring between July 25 and August 1, 2015. The majority of cases (63%) were male, with an average age of 24 years. Five cases have been hospitalized but all have recovered or are recovering.

The Public Health Agency routinely investigates multi-provincial gastro-intestinal illness outbreaks, including E.coli, in an effort to determine if illnesses are linked to the same source.

Who is most at risk?

Although anyone can get an E.coli infection, pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems, young children and older adults are most at risk for developing serious complications.

What you should do

The following tips will help you reduce your risk of infection with E. coli or other food-borne illnesses, and are especially important to remember during barbecue season:

  • Always ensure your foods are thoroughly cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them, clean counters and cutting boards and wash your hands regularly.
  • Bacteria can grow in the danger zone between 4 °C and 60 °C (40 °F to 140 °F). Keep cold foods cold at or below 4 °C (40 °F) and keep hot foods hot at or above 60 °C (140 °F).
  • Keep refrigerators clean and at a temperature below 4 °C (40 °F). Install a thermometer in your fridge to be sure.
  • Place raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Use containers that are large enough to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other food or touching other food.
  • Keep raw food away from other food while shopping, storing, preparing and serving foods.
  • Read labels and follow cooking and storage instructions for all food. When buying food, make sure to check the "best before" date, and if the product has expired, let the store know.
  • Use warm soapy water to clean knives, cutting boards, utensils, your hands and any surfaces that have come in contact with food, especially meat and fish.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of cooking.
  • Freeze or consume leftovers within four days of cooking. Always reheat leftovers until steaming hot before eating.

Symptoms

People infected with E.coli can have a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, though they can still spread the infection to others. Others feel as though they have a bad case of upset stomach. Still others become seriously ill and must be hospitalized.

The following symptoms can appear within one to ten days after contact with the bacteria:

  • severe stomach cramps
  • watery or bloody diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • headache
  • slight fever

Most symptoms clear up within five to ten days. However, some people who are infected with E.coli develop life-threatening symptoms, including kidney failure, seizures and stroke. While most will recover completely, others may suffer permanent health effects, like kidney damage, and some may die.

There is no treatment for E.coli infections, other than monitoring the illness, providing comfort, and preventing dehydration through proper hydration and nutrition. People who develop complications may need further treatment, like dialysis for kidney failure. You should contact your health care provider if symptoms persist.

What the Public Health Agency of Canada is doing

The Public Health Agency of Canada in collaboration with federal and provincial/territorial partners, will continue to monitor for and investigate any new cases of E.coli that may be related to this outbreak as part of its routine surveillance activities.

Additional Information

Media Contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
613-957-2983