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20 New E. coli cases Linked to One Deli

Nov 3, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Health officials in Canada's Niagara and Halton Regions are investigating eight new possible cases of E. coli.  Four cases have been reported in each of the two regions and officials are collaborating to determine whether the cases are linked.  Neither Niagara nor Halton has confirmed a source in the outbreak.

“We’re trying to sort out, are there common suppliers?  Common linkages between the Jonathan’s restaurant in Burlington and especially the two main facilities that we’re dealing with in Niagara region?” said Dr. Doug Sider, Niagara’s associate medical officer of health.  Health officials in Halton are investigating 20 possible E. coli cases.  Of these 20 cases, two have been confirmed and 18 others are symptomatic.  Mary Anne Carson, Halton’s director of health protection services, said all 20 ate at Jonathan’s Deli and Restaurant in Burlington between October 13 and 30.

Meanwhile, the Niagara investigation has increased to 40; 21 have been linked to Little Red Rooster in Niagara-on-the Lake and 14 to M.T. Bellies in Welland.  A dozen cases in Niagara have been confirmed and the remainder remain under investigation.  Carson reported that one of the confirmed Burlington cases was an exact match to some of the Niagara cases.  Sider said officials are reviewing fresh produce as the main source of concern that seems to be the link between the two Niagara restaurants.  Sider said the restaurants usually do not have a common distributor; however there were a variety of products that could link the two.  Unfortunately, there is no strong connection yet and officials state that the link is unclear.

Today, we are also reporting on another outbreak in which eight children, between four and 12 years of age, have tested positive for the same E. coli O157:H7 strain.  Officials remain unclear as to the connection and source of that outbreak.

E. coli are a group of bacteria found in animal intestines and feces.  While some E. coli strains are necessary for digestion; some are harmful, deadly, and toxin-producing and part of a group of E. coli called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli, or VTECs, also known as Shiga-producing E. coli.  Of particular concern is the virulent, sometimes deadly E. coli O157:H7 strain that is part of this group and that is generally found to be the culprit in E. coli-related food-borne illness outbreak.  E. coli may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death.  In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness, sickening about 73,000 and killing 61; last year, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks.

E. coli is spread most easily when people eat or drink food or water contaminated with human or animal feces or from infected symptomatic individuals.  Initial symptoms include sudden onset of watery, often bloody, diarrhea; abdominal cramping; and, occasionally, vomiting.  One-third of infected people develop fevers.  More and more, E. coli is turning up in produce and water and seems to be sweeping North America in recent months with outbreaks popping up in a variety of states in the U.S. and Canada.   E. coli taints meat through improper butchering and processing practices and, once released in the body, produces a type of toxin that has been associated with kidney damage in young children, and can also lead to kidney failure and death.

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