Calgary daycares hit by E. coli outbreak could be shut down for another week

Colonies of E. coli bacteria are seen in a microscopic image courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. (CDC/Reuters - image credit)
Colonies of E. coli bacteria are seen in a microscopic image courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. (CDC/Reuters - image credit)

An official for six Calgary daycare centres closed due to an E. coli outbreak says a deep cleaning of the facilities could take up to a week.

Alberta Health Services said Tuesday there were 56 lab-confirmed cases linked to the outbreak including up to 50 children arriving at hospitals.

AHS said the number of people hospitalized has increased to 15, up from the 12 it had reported on Monday.

Six of the Fueling Brains daycare sites were issued a closure order until issues are resolved.

As well, AHS reported five additional sites that share a central kitchen are also part of the outbreak.

"All 11 daycare sites in the Calgary area have been issued a closure order until issues are resolved," AHS said in a statement.

"Families with children attending any of the above locations have been sent letters advising of the outbreak and are being asked to monitor for symptoms."

In a statement, Faisal Alimohd, the co-founder of Fueling Brains, said the organization was notified by AHS of the potential outbreak at around noon on Sunday, Sept. 3. Alimohd said that families were notified of the developing situation as soon as reliable information could be shared.

"The exact source of the outbreak has not been identified, but we will be reviewing our policies, procedures, and sourcing related to food services for our facilities," said Alimohd.

"We recognize that this is a difficult situation for our incredible families and staff. We will continue to work hard to support them and provide updates as they become available."

In a statement, Lois Garcia, the vice-president of operations for Fueling Brains, said they are "rigorously searching for any common factors leading to this outbreak."

"Our deepest concerns and empathy are with every affected family, child, and staff member during this challenging period," Garcia wrote.

E. coli is a type of bacterial infection that is most commonly caused by eating contaminated food. AHS said the majority of people who become infected generally improve on their own and without specific treatment within 10 days.

But the strain of E. coli that AHS has identified in this outbreak is called shiga toxin-producing E. coli, and can cause more serious issues.

Dr. Stephen Freedman, a professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the University of Calgary, said that those infected with shiga toxin-producing E. coli can experience significant abdominal pains, cramping and frequent bloody diarrhea anywhere from 10 times a day up to 40 times a day.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) told CBC News that 859 cases of shiga toxin-producing E. coli were reported in the country in 2022.