No new E. coli cases connected to the initial Calgary outbreak have been reported in at least the past 24 hours, giving Alberta health officials reason for cautious optimism.
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Mark Joffe, provided an update Tuesday, saying that there have been no new cases from the initial outbreak in the past 24 hours and no new secondary cases in the last 48 hours.
He said we’re still not out of the woods yet.
“However, we are encouraged by falling daily case numbers and a sustained decrease in children who require hospital care. We’re also not seeing any significant spike in secondary cases,” he said.
“This is a cause for cautious optimism as we move into what we hope will soon be the end of this extremely serious outbreak.”
So far, there have been 348 lab-confirmed cases connected to the outbreak, unchanged from Sept. 18. There has been a total of 27 secondary cases, but no new cases in the past 48 hours.
Eight children are receiving care in hospital, one fewer than Sept. 18, Dr. Joffe said. All of the children remaining in the hospital have confirmed cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, with two on dialysis – one fewer than yesterday.
Thus far 707 children connected to the outbreak have been cleared to return to daycare facilities. Six daycares, and the central kitchen that’s believed to be the source of the E. coli infection, remain closed, Dr. Joffe said.
“I acknowledge that the closure of a daycare creates an incredible stress for parents,” Joffe said.
“Suddenly they’re faced with either taking time off work or finding alternative arrangements for their kids. This is not easy.”
Few answers in the investigation
Dr. Joffe said that they’ve yet to pinpoint the food source of the E. coli, but their probe continues. He said they’ve taken the food histories of more than 1,150 people and 250 daycare staff – both those who were and weren’t ill. They still have no specific source for the infection. Dr. Joffe said they may never find the exact cause.
“I want to reassure Albertans that your public health teams are doing all that they can do to get to the bottom of what happened here,” he said.
The Alberta NDP has been calling for a full public inquiry into the outbreak, and expressed frustration that Premier Danielle Smith won’t commit to one.
“Premier Smith’s lack of a sense of urgency is an insult to the families impacted by this crisis and all Albertans who expect the best from their government,” said Calgary-Acadia MLA and NDP Critic for Childcare and Children and Family Services, Diana Batten.
“Committing to a review once the ‘worst of the crisis’ is over and telling Albertans she’s ‘not quite sure what form that will take just yet’ is a clear example of why we need an independent public inquiry.
Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said there’s already a thorough investigation going on. Further, they’ve started preliminary contact with other similar shared kitchens across the province to review health standards.
“We want to see what the result of that investigation is, and once we have those results, if it warrants further action, then we’ll take that further action,” LaGrange said.
When asked about the future of the central kitchen, and any further oversight or sanctions, Dr. Joffe said that they remain closed indefinitely. He said it would remain closed until multiple different questions are answered.
“I think there are a number of steps in the works,” he said. But for now, that facility is closed indefinitely,” he said.
“There are no plans to reopen it.”