Canada: More will fall ill in E. coli outbreak, officials
After more than 50 customers sickened, health
officials close fast-food outlet
October 16, 2008
Source of Article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20081016.COLI16/TPStory/National
An E. coli outbreak that
may have sickened more than 50 people who ate at an Ontario Harvey's
restaurant will grow in the coming days, health officials warned yesterday as
they scrambled to determine the source of the contamination and who else may
be at risk.
people were confirmed to have fallen ill from E. coli O157:H7 bacteria after
eating at a North Bay Harvey's franchise. Another 38 illnesses linked to the
same restaurant are under investigation to determine whether they are the
result of E. coli contamination.
health officials fear that number could climb significantly because it can
take several days for people to feel ill after coming in contact with E.
addition, people who are ill could unwittingly infect family members and
ting more cases," said Catherine
Whiting, medical officer of health at the North Bay Parry Sound District
total of 19 people have been hospitalized since the outbreak began on the
weekend. Nine remained in hospital yesterday, but none have been admitted to
the intensive-care unit, Dr. Whiting said. The people affected range in age
from 9 to 84.
public is still reeling from the listeriosis crisis
involving deli meats and other products from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto. The listeriosis outbreak, which has been linked to 20 deaths
and numerous cases of illness, has shaken consumer confidence in the safety
of the food supply and caused many Canadians to question whether government
and industry are taking enough steps to prevent future problems.
North Bay's health unit ordered the Harvey's
restaurant on Algonquin Avenue
to close this week once officials realized everyone who had fallen ill had
eaten there. It's unclear how long it will remain closed, said Rick McNabb,
president of Harvey's Canada.
need to determine exactly what happened here before we even consider opening
the restaurant," Mr. McNabb said. "This is obviously a tough
determine the source of contamination, officials must collect detailed food
histories from each victim and have samples tested for bacteria.
all of the cases of illness have been linked to one restaurant, it is
possible the outbreak is part of a larger problem that could affect people in
other communities, said Doug Powell, associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University.
For instance, a product such as lettuce, which is usually shipped to food
retailers across a large area, could be the source of contamination.
because it's a Harvey's,
you can't assume it's the hamburger," Prof. Powell said. "It could
be a fresh product, something that's not cooked and it could be distributed
to other places."
important for health officials to figure out the source of the problem
quickly so they can reduce the risk to others if necessary, he said.
Dr. Whiting said the health unit is facing a major challenge getting fast
results because of the large volume of illnesses being reported.
it's still too early to pinpoint a source of contamination, Dr. Whiting said
investigators are focusing on the common foods consumed by all of the
victims, including meat and toppings, such as lettuce.
health unit is well aware that the outbreak could be linked to a larger
problem, and that health officials are on high alert for similar patterns of
illness across the country. "We would be looking for any clusters or
cases of E. coli elsewhere in Ontario
or the country ... ," Dr. Whiting said.