Canada

Coroner says six people died from Walkerton E. coli

The office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario says six people died in Walkerton from the E. coli outbreak.

On Wednesday, the office released its official report and found that four were directly due to the deadly bacteria. Two were due to other diseases but E. coli was a contributing factor.

The expert committee, headed by Chief Coroner Dr. James Young, looked at 21 deaths that were thought to have been related.

The E. coli outbreak began in late May in the small Ontario community. Around 2,000 people became sick as a result.

The local medical officer of health, Dr. Murray McQuigge, said the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission knew E. coli was in the town's water several days before people started getting sick.

The cause of the outbreak is not yet known. Some suspect the outbreak was caused by a heavy rainfall that washed animal waste from fields into wells.

The provincial government has set up a public inquiry into the outbreak.

The Ontario Provincial Police and the Environment Ministry are also conducting their own investigation.

The public inquiry gets its start in Walkerton on Wednesday with a series of informal meetings.

Dr. Jim Cairns, deputy chief coroner, says there will not be a decision about an inquest until the inquiry is well under way.

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