Ont. restaurant closes during E. coli probe

Mike Barber ,  Canwest News Service

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Source of Article:  http://www.canada.com/cityguides/toronto/info/story.html?id=237011e6-9fe7-495b-b2fb-62c48b7a24cf

Health authorities continued Tuesday to investigate a growing outbreak of E. coli bacteria originating at a Niagara-on-the-Lake restaurant, while the number of E. coli cases under investigation linked to a Harvey's restaurant in North Bay climbed to 229.

Medical officials confirmed that 18 cases of the food-borne illness are currently being investigated by Niagara Region Public Health, seven of which have been linked to the popular Little Red Rooster Restaurant. The health agency says the restaurant's owners voluntarily closed the eatery Friday and have been co-operating fully with the investigation.

Bjorn Christensen, the agency's director of environmental health, said they have not yet been able to determine the specific source of the E. coli, but it is commonly found in undercooked beef.

Investigators are looking at other possible sources, including other restaurants and food distributors in the area.

Christensen said that given the restaurant's popularity with tourists and proximity to the U.S. border, it is possible new cases might be found outside of the region.

Meanwhile, in the central Ontario city of North Bay, health officials said 12 more cases of E. coli are being investigated for a total of 229 cases.

Forty-four of those cases have been confirmed to be E. coli O157: H7.

Health authorities in Quebec, British Columbia and eight other districts in Ontario have also confirmed cases linked to the restaurant, located just off of the heavily travelled Trans-Canada Highway.

Dr. Catherine Whiting, the North Bay/Parry Sound District Health Unit's medical officer, said the affected individuals range in age from 12 months to 90 years.

One child, hospitalized last week, has been taken out of critical care but remains in hospital.

Symptoms of E. coli infections can include diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. Severe cases of infection may lead to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, commonly referred to as hamburger disease.

HUS affects three to five per cent of all people infected with E. coli. One in 10 children with E. coli typically get HUS, which can lead to kidney failure, and in some cases, death.

Investigators are still looking into the possibility that undercooked beef served at the restaurant may be behind the outbreak. The restaurant has been closed since Oct. 12.

Last Friday, a $17 million class-action lawsuit was launched against Cara Operations Ltd., the company that runs the Harvey's chain.

- with file from Tiffany Crawford



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