E.coli outbreak in Alberta stumps officials

Naga Gunda, a Faculty of Engineering PH.D student, demonstratesa newly developed E-Coli sensor at...

Naga Gunda, a Faculty of Engineering PH.D student, demonstratesa newly developed E-Coli sensor at the University of Alberta Faculty of Engineering's National Institute for Nanotechnology in Edmonton, Alta., on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. The project rapidly decreases the time required to diagnose E-Coli contamination in wells. Using cellphones, villagers in India or users of the technology in Canada, can check contamination levels. Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency

Bill Kaufmann, QMI Agency (2nd)

, Last Updated: 6:09 PM ET

CALGARY ─ Health officials are trying to track down the source of an E. coli outbreak that has resulted in more cases in the past month than were recorded in all of 2013.

It led to the brief closure of a southeast Calgary restaurant that Alberta Health Services officials say was linked to the outbreak.

Since July 15, Alberta Health Services has confirmed 122 cases of the food-borne illness in the province, compared to 96 in the entirety of last year.

The most dramatic centres of the outbreak are in the Calgary and Edmonton regions.

In the AHS's Calgary zone, 59 cases of E. coli have been confirmed since July 15, well in excess of the 36 illnesses recorded throughout 2013.

E.coli graphic

Because the outbreak has erupted simultaneously in both cities, it "begs the question if there's a common ingredient or common supplies," said Dr. Richard Musto, the AHS's Calgary lead medical officer of health.

"But we haven't found that yet...we haven't found one particular place or an ingredient that's a smoking gun."

Patients' restaurant visits and home food preparations are being traced back, he added.

On Aug. 11, the Chi Lan Vietnamese restaurant at 4307 130 Ave. S.E. was closed, due partly to the presence of E. coli.

It's since re-opened after being found in compliance with health regulations, said Musto.

E. coli is caused by the ingestion of food contaminated by fecal matter.

It can be fatal, but more commonly leads to stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

Throughout the province, 17 people have been hospitalized in the past month, seven of them in Calgary.

"Though we've had a large increase over last year, it's not going to be a rampant infection passed through the community," Musto said.

It's possible AHS might not be able to isolate the outbreak's cause and it'll simply run its course, he said.

"There were some peaks and now it seems to be waning," he said.


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