131 sick from E. coli linked to Harvey’s in North Bay, Canada

The North Bay Parry Sound District health unit reports there are now a total of 131 cases of which 22 are lab confirmed for E coli O157:H7, and 22 people are still under investigation.

The investigation is localized to Harvey’s Restaurant on Algonquin Avenue in North Bay. Included are cases being investigated by 4 other health units.

The people who are ill range from 1 to 84 years old. Symptoms of illness from E. coli O157:H7 include diarrhea which may be bloody, stomach cramps, and/or vomiting and possibly a fever. Anyone suffering with these symptoms is advised to seek medical attention.

Dr. Catherine Whiting, Medical Officer of Health, stresses “that people who are ill with E. coli must take precautions to prevent the spread of the bacteria to other people. Thorough hand washing, using soap and hot running water, particularly after toileting, before any food contact, or changing diapers is a must.”

As I told the Toronto Globe and Mail, the source could have been contaminated meat coupled with a failure in cooking, fresh produce such as lettuce used in burgers and salads, or an employee.

“Just because it’s a Harvey’s, you can’t assume it’s the hamburger,” said Doug Powell, associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University. “It could be a fresh product, something that’s not cooked and it could be distributed to other places.”

It’s important for health officials to figure out the source of the problem quickly so they can reduce the risk to others if necessary, he said.

However, for 131 to be sick from a restaurant that company president Rick McNabb said serves at least 300 meals daily suggests a fairly massive level of contamination.

There’s a lot of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks right now. I’m sure public health types are looking for DNA fingerprint matches and will publicize results as soon as they are available.