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E. coli outbreak connected to Calgary daycares sends up to 50 children to hospital

Emergency departments at Calgary hospitals have been overwhelmed by children following an outbreak of an infectious disease at day care centers in the city.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has confirmed that over the Labor Day long weekend, multiple children arrived at Alberta Children’s Hospital with bloody diarrhea and that they are dealing with an E.coli outbreak.

The outbreak is believed to have originated in a central kitchen shared by six locations of Fueling Brains, a day care that operates multiple locations in Calgary, as well as five additional facilities, AHS said in its statement.

CBC News reached out to Fueling Brains. The company said it would respond on Tuesday with more information.

12 patients were hospitalized

In its statement, AHS said there were 17 laboratory-confirmed cases linked to the outbreak, and 12 people were hospitalized.

Up to 50 children came to hospitals, AHS said.

“A lot of these kids, unfortunately, have to be admitted for 24 hours,” Dr. Arun Abbey, chair of emergency medicine at the Alberta Medical Association, told CBC News.

“They need to make sure there’s no kidney damage.”

All sites connected to the central kitchen where the outbreak originated have been ordered to close until the situation is resolved. They include:

  • Fueling Brains Braeside.

  • Fueling Brains West 85th.

  • Fueling Brains New Brighton.

  • Fueling Brains Centennial.

  • Fueling Brains Bridgeland.

  • Brain fuel McKnight.

  • Braineer Academy.

  • Kidz Space.

  • Early education of a small oak (with a former mangrove).

  • Almond branch school.

  • Vik Academy in Okotoks, Alta.

Kathy McLean, whose daughter goes to the McKnight location in Philly Brains, said she started noticing symptoms late last week.

“He was sent home with a very low-grade fever, and then for the next few days he had blood in his diarrhea, and that prompted us to call Health Link,” he said, referring to the phone line that provides; health information and advice.

“We went to the ER on Sunday. It was full of parents and young children…I overheard some other parents talking about the outbreak and their day care.”

McLee said she has not yet heard from the place her daughter attends about the outbreak.

In a letter to New Brighton parents obtained by CBC News, the daycare is asking parents and guardians to make sure their children seek medical attention “immediately” if they show symptoms of a gastrointestinal flare-up.

Symptoms include nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps or pain, bloating or gas, loss of appetite, fever, or fatigue.

More serious problems

Some forms of E.coli are common illnesses such as traveler’s diarrhea. But Dr. Stephen Friedman, a professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the University of Calgary, says what AHS is seeing in this outbreak — shiga-toxin positive e.coli — could lead to more serious problems.

In addition to causing mild diarrhea when people are first infected, Friedman explained that after a few days, those infected can experience significant abdominal pain, cramping and frequent bloody diarrhea, anywhere from 10 to 40 times a day.

The biggest concern, however, he said, is that this bacterium secretes a toxin that can harm other parts of the body.

“The toxin is absorbed into the bloodstream and then circulates to other organs and can affect the kidneys,” Friedman said.

“Only about 15 to 20 percent of children who have this type of infection develop any complications at all. The other 80 to 85 percent is really uncomfortable, uncomfortable, and associated with diarrhea, abdominal pain, and possibly dehydration.”

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