Suspected E.coli case recorded in Canada
June 07, 2011
Source: Laura Baziuk, Canada Health
Health officials were quick to reassure Canadians that they are at low risk for infection, after Canada's first suspected case of E. coli linked to the deadly outbreak in Europe was confirmed Monday in Ontario.
A man in the province's Peel region checked into the emergency department late last week with symptoms of diarrhea, said Andrew Morrison of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. It was later determined to have been caused by the strain of E. coli that has killed more than 20 people and sickened countless others in Europe.
"He had been travelling in Germany, and returned at the end of May," Morrison said, adding that the man has since been discharged and is "doing well."
The man told Toronto-area health officials he had consumed a salad made from local produce while abroad, Morrison said, but authorities could not yet determine if the salad was the direct source.
At least 10 European countries have reported E. coli cases so far, but European health authorities have yet to zero in on the exact source of the outbreak. They believe it likely originated in Germany and was caused by contaminated salad vegetables.
The Ontario ministry has not issued a warning to the public, Morrison said, but urges people to wash their hands after using the washroom to prevent any possible spread.
"It's important to remember that E. coli is not spread by coughing, kissing or normal interactions with friends or neighbours," he said. Someone carrying the infection can pass it on through "hand contact following poor hygiene after using the washroom."
He said the ministry has advised public health units throughout Ontario to look out for people reporting E. coli symptoms, such as diarrhea — particular those who have travelled recently to Germany.
The outbreak also has spread to the U.S., where four people in Atlanta were apparently sickened by the bacteria while visiting northern Germany last month.
In Canada, some farmers fear the outbreak is already proving bad for business.
The organization that represents Ontario's greenhouse vegetable growers says some of its members have reported a drop in sales as demand slips on news the source of the deadly bacteria remains unknown.
A spokesman for the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers said Ontario growers must meet strict food safety requirements and Canadian consumers shouldn't be worried.
Microbiologist Rick Holley, a food science professor at the University of Manitoba, is troubled by problems with the North American and European food contamination and inspection services.
"There are some things systematically wrong with the system in North America and in many European countries. One of those things is the issue with respect to ignoring inputs of salmonella and pathogenic E. coli into the agriculture system through contaminated animal feed," Holley said.
"And until we figure out a way of doing this effectively, we're going to be faced with seeing reports of food-borne outbreaks caused by produce, specifically caused by one or the other or both of these organisms."
While American health officials continue to investigate local cases related to the European outbreak, the U.S. government has ramped up efforts to test food from Germany and Spain.
On Friday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it also would enhance its controls on produce from the European Union.
The CFIA said it will intensify sampling and testing of European cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. The agency said there is no indication that any contaminated product has been shipped to Canada.
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