August 29, 2002

York Region Health Services identifies nine cases of E. coli bacteria


NEWMARKET York Region Health Services has identified nine cases of E. coli bacteria in York Region in the past three weeks, all involving children between the ages of two and 11.

Seven cases are confirmed as E. coli 0157:H7, and results are pending on the remaining two cases. Four of the children have made a complete recovery, while one remains hospitalized.

York Region physicians are being notified to be watchful for patients with E. coli symptoms.

The original source of the infection is unknown at this time. A secondary spread of infection from person-to-person may account for some of the reported cases. All municipal water systems are regularly tested, and are not considered to be a source in this investigation.

York Region averages about 30 E. coli cases each year. The nine current cases represent an unusually high number at one time, and bring the total number of E. coli bacteria infections this year to 24. In 2001, York Region Health Services investigated 25 E. coli cases, while 35 cases were investigated in 2000.

York Region Health Services officials continue to investigate this particular cluster of E. coli cases, and are taking all necessary steps to prevent further spread of this cluster.

For more information on E. coli bacteria, please call York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653.

Please see attached Fact Sheet on E. coli 0157:H7 that explains how infections occur and how to prevent E. coli infections.

For more information on the Regional Municipality of York, the services we offer and links to our nine area municipalities, please visit our Web site at

Contact: Patrick Casey, Senior Media Relations Specialist, York Region

August 29, 2002 

Fact Sheet

E. coli 0157:H7 (VTEC)What is E. coli 0157:H7?

E. coli are bacteria that are commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals. There are different types of E. coli, some of which are not harmful to people and some, which cause serious illness. It is commonly known as "Hamburger Disease".

Verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) are bacteria that can cause symptoms such as stomach cramps, vomiting, fever and diarrhea which may go from watery to bloody. After the bacteria are ingested, it can take two to eight days typically, with a medium of three to four days before symptoms start. The illness usually lasts seven to 10 days.

This infection is strongly associated with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a leading cause of kidney failure in the elderly and young children. Symptoms of HUS may include irritability, fatigue, paleness of the skin, puffiness around the eyes and ankles, and a decrease in the amount of urine produced. It is important to watch for symptoms of the HUS in a child after a child's diarrhea starts to clear up.

How E. coli 0157:H7 Infections Happen?

E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria infect the intestine of cattle. When animals are slaughtered, the bacteria contaminate the outer surface of the meat. The bacteria are further mixed into the meat during the grinding process. This is why it is sometimes called "hamburger disease".

E. coli 0157:H7 infections can be spread by many food sources such as undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk and apple cider, ham, turkey, roast beef, sandwich meats, raw vegetables, cheese and contaminated water. Once someone eats contaminated food, this infection can be passed from person-to-person, by hand-to-mouth contact (fecal-oral route). Poor hand washing and improper food handling are factors that lead to the spread of illness.

How Do You Prevent E. coli Infections?

  1. Thorough hand washing is the best prevention. Make sure hands are properly washed after using the toilet, handling diapers, pets, livestock or before preparing food.
  2. Clean and sanitize counter tops and utensils after contact with raw meats and poultry.
  3. If possible, separate work areas and utensils for preparing raw and cooked foods.
  4. Cook ground beef thoroughly to an internal temperature of 70 C or until the juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink.
  5. Drink only pasteurized milk and apple cider. Never let youngsters sample milk directly from the animal.
  6. Keep cold foods at 4 C or lower. Keep hot foods at 60 C or higher.
  7. Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.
  8. Drink water from a safe supply.
  9. If ill with diarrhea, avoid preparing or handling food.

For further information, please contact Health Connection

The Regional Municipality of York is committed to providing cost-effective, quality services that respond to the needs of our rapidly growing communities.  York Region is comprised of the following nine area municipalities:  Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Whitchurch-Stouffville.  For more information, visit our Web site at:

Contact: Patrick Casey, Senior Media Relations Specialist, York Region

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