The number of E. coli cases linked to an outbreak at several Calgary daycares continues to rise, but doctors say there are fewer patients in hospital with serious complications.
There were 310 lab-confirmed cases of the bacterial infection as of Wednesday. The outbreak at 11 Calgary daycares was declared Sept. 4.
“It can be frightening to see these numbers, especially a jump in the last few days,” Dr. Tania Principi, section chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Alberta Childrens Hospital, told reporters during a news conference Wednesday.
“This increase in numbers were seeing has more to do when were getting results from the lab on those tested previously. But actually, clinically in the (emergency department), we are seeing significant decrease in the number of children presenting with illness.”
Principi said 14 patients have been discharged from hospitals since the beginning of the outbreak.
Twenty-one patients were still receiving care at Alberta Childrens Hospital. Twenty of those children have hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication affecting the blood and kidneys.
Seven patients were on peritoneal dialysis, which is a way to remove waste products from the blood and a treatment for kidney failure.
“Were seeing that the patients on dialysis and even our HUS numbers have been fairly stable,” said Principi. “Were not seeing a significant rise in that, but were continuing to do tests and follow this last group of patients.”
There have been 18 E. coli cases from secondary transmissions, but she said all of those cases have been within households linked to the outbreak.
“If were able to continue to contain that secondary spread, we should be through the largest hump now and see potentially some increase in case numbers â€¦ as tests come back,” said Principi. “But in terms of sick children and people, we should be at the tail end.”
Meanwhile, the daycares have been allowed to reopen.
“I want to stress that the closure orders were rescinded only after Alberta Health Services determined that the facilities are safe environments for children and staff,” Dr. Francesco Rizzuti, medical officer of health for Calgary, said Wednesday.
“Our AHS inspectors visited all 11 daycares to review conditions in each facility and ensure they met requirements for safe operation under the Public Health Act.”
A spokesman for the daycares said in an email that the well-being of the children, parents and staff remains the priority and that the daycares had extensive cleaning and sterilization before they reopened.
“We have been in regular communication with our families and staff to ensure reopening requirements are met, along with implementing any changes in our operations and processes that are required,” said Kent Hehr, a former member of Parliament whos a vice-president with Fueling Brains.
“Upon reopening, all food will be provided by parents or sourced by external providers.”
A report released by Alberta Health Services earlier this week said public health inspectors found improper sanitation, live cockroaches and issues around food handling in a central kitchen for the daycares that was closed due to the E. coli outbreak.
Rizzuti said the kitchen would not be allowed to reopen until the critical health violations are fully addressed.
Investigators, he added, are still looking for the source of the outbreak.
“We have not identified a food source at this point,” he said. The most likely source, he added, was food distributed from the central kitchen.