Another case of E. coli at Calgary daycare, but officials say no link to outbreak

CALGARY — Another child at a Calgary daycare has tested positive for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, a month after an outbreak that infected hundreds at numerous child-care facilities started.

Some parents at Fueling Brains Academy Bridgeland received a letter Monday night from Dr. Franco Rizzuti, Alberta Health Services' chief medical officer for Calgary, to inform them about the case and suggest they seek medical care and testing if their child has had any symptoms since Sept. 22.

The letter said there's no evidence that the infection was acquired at the child-care facility or that there is a link to the outbreak that had affected 19 daycares — including the Bridgeland facility.

Dr. Kirsten Fiest, a Calgary epidemiologist whose 18-month-old son attended the daycare until last week, said it seems strange that there's another random case at a daycare that was part of the original outbreak.

"Is there that much E. coli going around the city?" she asked.

Fiest said she's concerned that it took Alberta Health Services so long to notify parents about the exposure.

"They tell us not to be worried. But seeing what happened before, it's difficult to say let's wait and see," she said.

"Is my kid safe anywhere?"

Alberta Health Services confirmed the latest case in a statement but said the risk of exposure is low and it is not recommending another closure of the site. It said it informed parents as soon as the details were confirmed.

"Based on our interviews, timelines and the case history of the individual, AHS does not believe this case is directly related to the original outbreak, and that a different exposure is more likely," it said in a statement. "However, further laboratory testing will help clarify that."

The health authority said there's an average of 288 cases of E. coli in Alberta annually, aside from the outbreak.

The outbreak, which was declared on Sept. 4, was linked to a central kitchen used by the daycares. That kitchen has been closed indefinitely.

Health officials have said that meat loaf and vegan loaf meals served for lunch Aug. 29 most likely contained the E. coli bacteria that led to the initial infections.

As of Tuesday, the health authority said there have been a total of 358 lab-confirmed E. coli cases connected to the outbreak — including 42 secondary cases.

It did not provide an update on how many children remain in hospital. Four children were in hospital as of the Sept. 27 update.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press