CALGARY — Alberta Health Services says an E. coli outbreak that infected hundreds of children at numerous Calgary daycares is over, eight weeks after it started.
The health authority said in an update on its website Tuesday that the final three affected sites came off outbreak status last week and there are no children left in hospital.
The outbreak, which was declared on Sept. 4, was linked to a central kitchen used by the daycares.
"The central kitchen remains under a closure order, and at this time the criteria for rescinding the order have not been met," said the update.
"In order for the kitchen to reopen, the closure order must be rescinded by AHS, which requires multiple steps including a food safety plan submitted to and approved by AHS."
Health officials have previously said that meat loaf and vegan loaf meals served for lunch on Aug. 29 most likely contained the E. coli bacteria that led to the initial infections.
Alberta Health Services said in its update that there has been a total of 446 E. coli cases connected to the outbreak — including 356 that have been lab confirmed and another 90 probable cases. Another 32 secondary cases have also been linked.
Thirty-eight children and one adult were hospitalized with E. coli. Twenty-three of those patients were diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome and eight required dialysis, the update noted.
The health authority said no patients remain in hospital and there were no deaths.
It added that a total of 1,581 children connected to the outbreak have been cleared to return to daycare.
Officials said there are some children who are still not allowed to return to daycare and continue to have their lab results monitored.
"While the outbreak has been declared over, much work continues, including supporting those individuals who continue to have E. coli positive stools and further work regarding the source investigation," said the update from Alberta Health Services.
"AHS acknowledges that a large number of families and individuals was impacted by this outbreak, and our teams continue to support them in their recoveries.
"We are also extremely grateful to the physicians and front-line health-care workers who provided incredible care to these patients during this challenging time."
Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, that the government is focused on ensuring Albertans never experience another E. coli outbreak.
"This is why we have an external panel led by former Calgary police chief Rick Hanson working to review food safety in kitchens that provide food in licensed child-care facilities," she wrote.
"We will keep Albertans informed as the panel works to complete its report."
The panel does not have a set timeline, but the province has said it would bring in interim recommendations as needed rather than wait for the final report.
The company that runs the kitchen, Fueling Minds Inc., and its two directors also face 12 charges under municipal business bylaws and a total fine of up to $120,000. They are scheduled to appear in court in November.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2023.
Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press