Health

E. coli bacteria make 24 people ill in Canada

Several people have landed in hospital after 24 cases of E. coli O157 were reported in four provinces, the Public Health Agency of Canada says in reminding people about handling food safely.

5 hospitalized but all have recovered or are recovering, federal health officials say

Several people have landed in hospital after 24 cases of E. coli O157 were reported in four provinces, the Public Health Agency of Canada says in reminding people about handling food safely.

A specific source or product has not been identified.

"At this time, the risk to Canadians is low. However, Canadians are reminded to follow safe food-handling practices to avoid illness," the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a release Monday.

The 24 cases with the same genetic fingerprint were reported in:

  • Alberta — 1.
  • Ontario — 7.
  • Quebec — 14.
  • Nova Scotia —2.

The illnesses happened between July 12 and Aug. 8, with the peak reported between July 25 and Aug. 1, the agency said.

A colourized scanning electron micrograph depicts E. coli O157:H7. Although most strains are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, this strain produces a powerful toxin, which can cause severe illness. (Janice Haney Carr/CDC)

Five people were hospitalized, but all have recovered or are recovering.

The majority of cases, 63 per cent, were male, with an average age of 24.  

Federal and provincial public health officials are urging people to take standard precautions, including cooking raw meat properly.

E. coli refers to a large group of bacteria commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals. Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some types, such as E. coli O157:H7, can make people sick with severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

Serious complications of an E. coli O157:H7 infection can include kidney failure.

E. coli O157:H7 is also known as hamburger disease.

In 2000, seven people died and more than 2,300 others fell ill in Walkerton, Ont., in Canada's worst E.coli outbreak. The bacteria got into the town's water supply from manure spread on a farmer's field near one of the town's wells.

In recent years, there was an average of about 440 E. coli infections reported annually in Canada, according to the agency.

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