Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia E. coli now part of 'national outbreak'

An outbreak of a potentially deadly strain of E. coli that has made people sick in three provinces is being described as a "national outbreak" by health officials in Nova Scotia.

Public Health Agency of Canada confirms 15 cases in N.S., N.B. and Ontario

An outbreak of a potentially deadly strain of E. coli that has made people sick in three provinces is being described as a "national outbreak" by health officials in Nova Scotia.

To date, five people in Nova Scotia, six people in New Brunswick and four people in Ontario have confirmed cases of the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 sub-type.

How to prevent spread of E. coli

  • Wash, peel raw vegetables and fruit
  • Cook meat properly
  • Wash hands and surfaces after handling raw meat
  • Consume only pasteurized dairy products

An additional five E. coli cases identified by Nova Scotia health officials are still awaiting confirmation from the national laboratory in Winnipeg to see if they are from the same strain.

Dr. Frank Atherton, Nova Scotia's deputy chief medical officer of health, said the findings confirm health officials are on the right track.

"We know that there's a common source for this infection across the three provinces. That's important because it means, really, this is now a national outbreak," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"We still have a very large provincial role to play but we need to look at it in the context of what's happening in those other provinces."

According to a news release posted to the Public Health Agency of Canada's website, lab tests indicate all 15 cases are linked. Health officials believe the source is produce served at restaurants, but they haven't been able to pinpoint the source.

Of Nova Scotia's 10 cases, five were in the Capital District Health Authority, two in the Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority and one each in Pictou County, Cumberland and Colchester East Hants health authorities.

Medical staff have assessed all affected patients who have now recovered or are recovering.

The first cases were reported just before Christmas.

E. coli O157 a potentially deadly strain

E. coli O157 is the same strain that killed seven people in Walkerton, Ont., in 2000.

This particular strain of E. coli secretes a powerful toxin that can destroy red blood cells, leading to severe illness, high blood pressure and kidney damage.

It also led to the biggest beef recall in Canadian history last fall. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recalled more than 1,500 beef products that were packed at XL Foods, a meat processing plant in Brooks, Alta.

Officials said there has been an increase in the number of people contacting their doctors, worried they might have been infected. But the majority of those cases are Norovirus, an infection that causes sudden nausea and vomiting.

The symptoms of E. coli tend to last several days, where Norovirus can pass within 24 hours.