E. Coli Outbreak Doubles in Calgary Daycares; Health Officials Battle to Contain Spread

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The scourge of an immense E. coli outbreak continues to grip Calgary-area daycares, with the tally of affected children ballooning to twice its initial count. Alberta Health Services (AHS) has confirmed a total of 96 cases as of Wednesday’s afternoon reports.

Already, twenty-two of these stricken children are receiving medical care under the vigilant eyes of healthcare professionals at Alberta Children’s Hospital and Peter Lougheed Centre. “Dedicated teams of specialists are tirelessly working to diagnose and lend their support to every child that needs to be admitted to the emergency room,” stated Dr. Francesco Rizzuti, an AHS health official for the Calgary Zone.

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Among those affected is Danielle Redwood’s toddler, Doulie. The two-year-old has managed to avoid hospital admission but requires daily blood tests for monitoring. The major concern is the development of haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a condition that could impair kidney function.

The distress is evident in Redwood’s voice – “The toll has been profound; between five to seven hours spent at the hospital each day. The fear of what could happen keeps me awake at night, and I know I’m not alone. We’re all anxious, all tearful.”

Children are considered extremely vulnerable to developing HUS, according to Cora Constantinescu, a paediatric infectious disease specialist at Alberta Children’s Hospital. “Their risk ranges between 10 to 15 per cent. It’s vast, which is why early detection is vital. Proper hydration or sufficient bodily fluids are crucial for their kidney health.”

Investigations into the source of this devastating outbreak are ongoing. In the meantime, public health inspectors have taken samples for testing from Fueling Minds, the main kitchen catering to these daycares. Dr. Rizzuti emphasized that their prime concern is preventing any further spread of the disease while acknowledging that food sources may not always lead to conclusive answers in such cases.

Previous health inspection reports that AHS carried out for Fueling Minds, extending back to 2021, have surfaced some violations including subpar kitchen sanitation, dirty food contact surfaces, dysfunctional appliances, and improperly stored food. While follow-ups and rectifications were made, with the last one in April, the issue remains worrying.

Despite earlier compliance with health regulations, six Fueling Brains Academy locations in Calgary along with five other associated sites are now under mandatory closure until a resolution is reached. Dr. Rizzuti clarified that not all of these daycare centres have confirmed cases, and the shutdown is a preventative measure.

In the wake of the outbreak, Redwood’s faith in her child’s daycare has been severely tested. She calls for change, stating, “This cannot happen again. We’re still unsure whether all the kids have pulled through yet.”

In response, AHS has devised a central informative portal for parents of daycare goers that includes a list of symptoms, detailed instructions on handling a symptomatic child or household member, and preventative measures against E. coli. Over 2,000 stool sample testing kits have also been dispatched to all the daycares for parents and the staff.

In this challenging period, public health continues to keep watch over the results while dutifully reaching out to those affected.