Second Niagara restaurant closes over E. coli concerns

Mike Barber ,  Canwest News Service


Source of Article:


Published: Wednesday, October 29, 2008

As the number E. coli cases and questions in the Niagara region continue to mount, the area health authority said Wednesday that time and patience are needed before answers are found.

Twenty-three people in the southern Ontario area infected with E. coli are currently being investigated by Niagara Region Public Health, eight of whom have been confirmed to have E. coli 0157: H7, said Dr. Doug Sider, NRPH's associate medical officer of health.

The outbreak has closed two local restaurants - Little Red Rooster in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and M.T. Bellies in Welland Ont., - and it appears a third or more sources could be affected as well.

But lab results and statistical analysis confirming whether the two closures are linked won't be available until the weekend at the earliest, Sider said.

And while molecular fingerprints of confirmed cases at both restaurants are the same, Sider said it was too early to determine if there was a common source, and if so, what it might be.

Three of the four cases from Welland and two of the 16 from Niagara-on-the-Lake are confirmed to be E. coli O157: H7. But the remaining three confirmed cases have not yet yielded a third source of infection.

E. coli O157: H7 is a harmful strain of bacteria that can lead to bloody diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever.

In severe cases, E. coli infection can lead to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, commonly referred to as hamburger disease.

The illness, which mostly affects children younger than five years old, can lead to kidney failure and death.

Sider could confirm that the fingerprint of the Niagara strain is not the same as that of a larger E. coli outbreak in North Bay, Ont. A Harvey's restaurant in the central Ontario city has been linked to 230 suspected cases, 45 of which have been confirmed as having E. coli O157: H7.

Sider said the public health department has contacted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see if the fingerprint had arisen in the U.S.

New York state public health officials were also alerted to look for potential E. coli cases coming from Ontario.

"We need to look locally, we need to look regionally, we need to look nationally, we need to look internationally," said Sider.

Should the fingerprint have a match elsewhere, determining the source might be made easier, he said.

Epidemiologists from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion have been dispatched to Niagara to help investigate.



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