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Calgary Daycare E.Coli Outbreak Class Action Lawsuit

A recent outbreak of E. coli (Escherichia coli) has swept across Calgary daycares and caused serious harm and sickness to hundreds of children. The numbers and severity of the people affected are extraordinary, with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer calling it the largest outbreak of E. coli in Alberta’s history. To help make sense of recent events, this blog post will provide some basic information on E. coli, explore the differences of the E. coli strain impacting Calgary, cover the ongoing investigation of the Calgary outbreak, and provide prevention tips on avoiding E. coli infections.

What is E. coli?

E. coli is a type of bacteria that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. While most E. coli strains are relatively harmless, some can cause serious food poisoning. E. coli is typically transmitted through food, especially raw foods that have come into contact with manure from cattle or with contaminated beef. Most individuals who get sick from E. coli can improve in 10 days without specialized treatment, but some may develop more severe complications. Common symptoms include: 

  • Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
  • Fever
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 

According to the Government of Canada, approximately 474 cases of E. coli are reported annually in Canada

How is STEC Different? 

The current outbreak in Calgary is from a particular strain known as “Shiga toxin-producing E. coli” (STEC). STEC differs from typical E. coli as it produces a toxin that can cause severe complications beyond the more common symptoms. Children, older adults, and those who are immunocompromised are at greater risk of complications from this strain of E. coli. One such complication is Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which affects the blood and kidneys.  

Children under five years of age are at the highest risk. Approximately 15% of children with STEC diarrhea develop HUS and 50% of those children may require dialysis. If you or your child tests positive for STEC it is important to seek medical care so a physician can evaluate and conduct additional testing to monitor for HUS

If you or a family member start to develop symptoms, Alberta Health Services recommends you see a healthcare provider for assessment and have stool testing for STEC. If children develop severe symptoms such as bloody diarrhea, you should immediately attend an urgent care clinic or an emergency department as soon as possible. Considering STEC’s ability to spread through infected people, it is important that you mention your possible exposure either prior to arrival or immediately upon arrival at the healthcare facility.

The Current Investigation into the Calgary Outbreak 

On September 5, 2023, an E. coli outbreak was declared in 11 Calgary daycare sites which all shared a central kitchen that catered food. At the time of writing, the total number of verified infections is upwards of 231 people (largely if not entirely children), with 21 patients suffering from HUS. Alberta Health Services has not been able to identify a food item that was the source. However, Alberta Health Services has recently released a report on the health violations of the shared kitchen used by a number of impacted daycares in the city. Alberta Health Services states that it is “highly likely” that the source of the outbreak was from food that was distributed from that kitchen. The results of ongoing testing will reveal more information in the future.

According to the report, inspectors found three critical violations including two live adult cockroaches spotted around the dishwashing area, poor equipment sanitation, and cold foods being transported to other locations in excess of 90 minutes without temperature control.

How Can I Prevent E. Coli Infection? 

The prevention of E. coli requires control measures at each stage of food distribution. For your typical household, preventive measures for E. coli are the same as other food related diseases. The World Health Organization recommends the “five keys to safer food”:

  • Keep clean
  • Separate raw and cooked
  • Cook thoroughly (centre of the food reaches at least 70 °C)
  • Keep food at safe temperatures
  • Use safe water and raw materials

Additionally, if you are caring for someone who is ill with STEC or was possibly exposed to STEC, wash your hands frequently to limit the risk of transmission. Make sure persons with diarrhea, especially children, wash their hands carefully and frequently with soap to reduce the risk of spreading the infection. Wash your hands often, including after you go to the washroom, before you prepare food, after you touch raw meat, after you change diapers, and before you eat.

When washing your home, rinse with clean warm water, then wiping, spraying, or soaking for two minutes with sanitizers such as chlorine bleach, followed by airdrying.

Have You Been Impacted by E. Coli?

James H. Brown & Associates has pioneered class actions in Canada to help compensate individuals who suffered illness and long-term injury from food poisoning outbreaks such as E. coli. In February of 2016, James H. Brown successfully reached a $4 million settlement that was approved in the XL Foods Class Action relating to recall of beef products, one of the largest food recalls in Canadian history. 

James H. Brown & Associates is currently litigating a class action lawsuit regarding E. coli contaminated pork products and a class action lawsuit regarding salmonella-contaminated onions.

If you or a family member have been impacted by the recent E coli. outbreak in Calgary, please go to the James H. Brown website and fill out our form. Additionally, you can contact our class action team directly at classaction@jameshbrown.com or at 1 (800) 616-0088

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