Volume 95, Issue 49

Wednesday, November 28, 2001
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Tories receive poor marks

No bus pass for you!

Rye High sets sights on laptop learning

U.S. makes disturbing discovery

Universities look overseas for brainiacs

E. coli leaves officials puzzled

E. coli leaves officials puzzled

By Joel Brown
Gazette Staff

Recent E. coli infections across the province, including two cases in London, have health officials puzzled as to the source of the bacteria.

Over 12 cases of E. coli infection have emerged in Ontario in less than a month, with the last case being a 72-year-old London woman this past weekend. All cases have included the same strain of the bacteria.

A team of investigators is attempting to find a common link among the victims by way of a questionnaire that asks what they have eaten, where they have travelled and what their daily activities are, said Graham Pollett, Southwestern Ontario's medical officer at the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

"At this point, we're still digging," Pollett said, noting no common links have been found between the two London victims.

While both victims – the second a 32-year-old female – showed bloody diarrhea symptoms, neither had to be admitted to hospital and both have since recovered.

Although the particular strain of E. coli is different than the one found in Walkerton a year and a half ago, it causes the same illness. Similar cases have also been discovered in Ottawa, Kingston, Simcoe County, Toronto, York Region and Windsor.

Pollett said the specific strain is uncommon and noted reports of the virus to London doctors are rare. The source is most likely a food product that was distributed province-wide, he said.

Pollett urged London residents to carefully wash fruits and vegetables, ensure meat is cooked well – especially ground beef – and avoid unpasteurized meats.

John Letherby, spokesman for Ontario's Ministry of Health, said doctors hoping to pinpoint the origin of the E. coli are facing a large challenge.

"If it would have been 45,000 people in an area like Toronto, it would be pretty easy, but since it's a dozen people all over the province, it is harder to find the source," he said.

Western microbiology and immunology professor Gregor Reid agreed with the public health department's initiatives, but said people should always be concerned about the possibility of food poisoning, especially if uncooked food is handled improperly.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001