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INDEPTH: HEALTH
Timeline: E. coli contamination in Canada
CBC News Online | September 26, 2006

On Sept. 15, 2006, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issues a warning against eating fresh spinach imported from the U.S.

A resident walks by a sign showing community feelings in Walkerton, Ont., May 26, 2000. Seven residents died after E. coli contaminated the town's water supply. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

The warning comes in the wake of an E. coli outbreak in several states that kills one person and sends more than 100 others to hospital.

At least one Canadian case of E. coli has been linked to the tainted spinach.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the outbreak involves the E. coli strain O157:H7, the same strain that killed seven people in Walkerton, Ont., in 2000.

Canada has seen its own cases of E. coli contamination over the past few years. Here's a look at some of those outbreaks.

Aug. 24, 2006:

Public health officials investigate a Fredericton daycare after a four-year-old girl is hospitalized with E. coli infection. They can�t determine where the girl contracted the bacteria, but an initial investigation found three other children at Bright Beginnings Daycare and one parent who tested positive for the toxin produced by E. coli.

August 2006:

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says more than half of the 40 E. coli cases in the region have been traced back to the Dutch Meat Market in St. Boniface.

Four people had been taken to hospital, with two in critical condition.

October 2005:

Water infected with E. coli leads the Ontario government to evacuate about 1,100 residents of Kashechewan to Ottawa, Sudbury, Cochrane, Timmins, Peterborough and Sault Ste. Marie.

Many of the evacuees had to be treated for persistent skin conditions they linked to heavy chlorination of their drinking and bathing water over the past few years.

At least one intake pipe for the community's water treatment plant is downstream from Kashechewan's sewage lagoon.

Sept. 22, 2004:

The number of E. coli cases in Calgary hits 29 in less than a week. Health officials suspect the likely source is ground beef.

The Calgary Health Region says 17 of the cases can be traced back to food containing ground beef at five city restaurants.

E. coli quick facts

What is E. coli and where does it come from?

E. coli is a type of bacteria commonly found in the intestines of animals and humans. E. coli is short for Escherichia coli. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the presence of E. coli in water is a strong indication of recent sewage or animal waste contamination. There are different kinds of E. coli, some harmful to humans and some not harmful.

What are the health effects of E. coli O157:H7?

E. coli O157:H7 is one of hundreds of strains of the bacterium E. coli. Although most strains are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, this strain produces a powerful toxin and can cause severe illness.

Infection often causes severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps; sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhea. Frequently, no fever is present.

July 28, 2004:

Laboratory tests point to beef from an Alberta plant as the cause of E. coli contamination that sent three Quebecers to hospital earlier in the month, say provincial agriculture officials.

Tests on contaminated meat sold at a supermarket in St-Eustache, north of Montreal, showed that the beef came from XL Meats in Calgary, according to a department spokesperson.

Contaminated meat linked to the death of an elderly Quebec woman and the illness of two other people could not be traced to any particular source, said officials.

July 27, 2004:

An Ontario hockey camp is forced to shut down after 25 people fall ill from what public health officials believe is hamburger meat tainted with E. coli bacteria.

Nineteen children and six staff members at the Adventure North Hockey Camp, located north of Sudbury, become sick after eating the meat.

Nov. 26, 2002:

Salads and sandwiches prepared at a Charlottetown hospital are believed responsible for an E. coli outbreak that killed one person and made at least 11 others sick.

May 16, 2002:

Several people in Ottawa become infected by the same strain of E. coli that killed seven people in Walkerton, Ontario.

The deadly strain of E. coli is detected in at least six children and one adult.

December 2001:

A 22-month-old toddler dies and two others fall sick in an outbreak of E. coli in Saint John, N.B.

The province�s chief medical officer says that three cases of E. coli are confirmed.

All the children affected attended the same YM-YWCA day-care centre.

May 2000:

In the worst case of water contamination in Canadian history, seven people die and more than 2,300 fall ill in Walkerton, Ont., after a deadly strain of E.coli pollutes the town�s drinking water.

In 2002, a judicial inquiry into the contamination says the tragedy could have been prevented by the Ontario government and the region's public utilities managers.

Nov. 19, 1999:

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control reports almost 100 people are infected with E. coli, with 1/3 of the victims requiring hospital treatment.

The bacterial infection originated with tainted salami manufactured in Surrey, according to officials.

Nov. 3, 1999:

A six-year-old girl dies and another 12 people fall sick from eating tainted hamburger in La Baie, Quebec. All the E. coli cases have been traced to the same supermarket.






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EXTERNAL LINKS:
(CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external sites)

Stopping the spread of E. coli from Health Canada

Water Pollution Facts, from Environment Canada

E. coli in drinking water, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

E. coli infection, from familydoctor.org

E. coli, from Centers for Disease Control

Escherichia coli O157:H7 from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Answering your questions on e-coli, from the U.S. Dept. Agriculture

E. coli help organization from Eric's Echo, a personal site

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