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E. coli Outbreak

Summary

Alberta Health Services (AHS) Environmental Public Health has expanded its investigation into the source of an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7.

Anyone who has symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 should contact Health Link. The predominant symptom associated with E. coli O157:H7 is diarrhea, which may be bloody. In more severe forms of the disease, hemolytic uremic syndrome (a form of kidney failure) can develop.

Symptoms and Causes

Symptoms usually start one to 10 days after eating food contaminated with E. coli bacteria. If you are concerned or start to develop symptoms, please visit a healthcare clinic or your family physician as soon as possible. It is important that you mention your possible exposure to E. coli O157:H7.

Children, the elderly and the immunocompromised are at greater risk of complications from this strain of E. coli. The majority of individuals who get sick from E. coli O157:H7 will improve on their own within 10 days, but a small proportion may develop complications.

As always, Albertans are reminded to stay home when sick, refrain from preparing foods while sick with diarrhea, and always wash hands well with soap and warm water before preparing foods or drinks or before eating or drinking.

E. coli infections are generally caused when a person eats food or drinks water that is contaminated with human or animal feces, or through direct contact with a person who is sick or with animals that carry the bacteria.

Reduce Your Risk

Albertans should always follow these proper hygiene and safe food handling and preparation practices, to reduce their risk of E. coli infection:

  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water often, including after you go to the washroom, before you prepare food, after you touch raw meat, and after you change diapers.
  • Avoid preparing food for others when ill with diarrhea.
  • Cook beef and pork to at least 71 °C (160 °F).
  • Thoroughly wash vegetables and fruits before eating.
  • Thoroughly wash all kitchen tools and surfaces that have touched raw meat.
  • Use only pasteurized milk, dairy, and juice products.
  • Be sure that water used for drinking or food preparation is from approved sources (including municipal water supply or properly maintained/treated well water).
  • When you travel to countries that may have unsafe drinking water, don't use ice or drink tap water, and avoid consuming raw fruits and vegetables, except those with skin that you peel yourself.