There are now 96 lab-confirmed cases connected to an E. coli outbreak at Calgary daycares, with 22 people requiring hospitalization.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) provided an update Wednesday, after informing the public earlier this week about cases at Fueling Brains locations in Calgary, along with five other daycares in the city.
Initially reported as being connected to a central kitchen used by the different daycare locations, AHS said Wednesday that they’re still investigating the source.
“Alberta Health Services’ public health team is currently investigating the source of this outbreak, and at this time, we have not identified a source,” said Dr. Francesco Rizzuti, Medical Officer of Health for Alberta Health Services Calgary Zone.
Dr. Rizzuti said that all daycare operators have been “terrific partners” in managing the outbreak and communicating with potentially affected families. He said that all 11 affected facilities are still under closure orders and will remain closed until the issue is resolved.
A pop-up window on the Fueling Brains website acknowledges the E. coli outbreak and said they’ve been closed to undergo the necessary measures to ensure the safety of students, staff and families.
“However, we are scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, September 12th or until further notice,” the website read. Previously, they had indicated to clients on their Facebook page that they would be open by Sept. 7.
Dr. Rizzuti said they would continue to keep the affected families informed. They will also provide guidance to any of the affected families. AHS has also created a dedicated webpage with information on the outbreak.
Some of the children in the hospital are experiencing more serious illnesses related to the outbreak, Dr. Rizzuti said. He could not elaborate on the specific conditions.
Compliant with health regulations
Prior health records related to the kitchen have surfaced showing previous violations, but Dr. Rizzuti said those didn’t have any impact on his decision over the weekend to close the daycares.
“At the time leading up to this, this outbreak being declared, our understanding was that the kitchen was in compliance,” said Dr. Rizzuti.
He said public health inspectors were on site first thing Tuesday morning and they collected food samples from the kitchen, plus leftover foods. They are being tested in the AHS laboratory.
Lab results take several days to return, Dr. Rizzuti said.
“Typically, in situations like this, outbreaks like this, we may not find a food source,” he said.
“Our main focus thus far has been to prevent any additional transmission or spread of this and to ensure that children are safe and have access to any care that they need.”
Dr. Rizzuti stressed that the vast majority of patients will recover either on their own at home, or during their stay in hospital. In the meantime, more than 2,000 stool sample kits have been sent out to daycare operators to make available to families.
“We have a team of experts, scientists, who are linking our data, looking at how cases connect together, which daycares they’re at,” he said.
“So we’re still in the process of identifying all of these connections we anticipate that will take time.”