Press Releases


August 18, 2010

WRHA investigating E. coli outbreak

Alerting public to risk of secondary contamination

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is alerting the public to a recent
outbreak of a virulent strain of E. coli that occurred in the first two weeks of August 2010. Fifteen suspected and one confirmed case have presented to Emergency Departments between August 1 and 16. Previous to the outbreak, there had been only 9 cases in Winnipeg since January.

The majority of the cases are associated with food eaten at the Russian Pavilion during the first week of August.

Although the pavilion is now closed, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is cautioning the public about the risk of secondary spread. In order to reduce this risk, the health region is reminding the public to always wash their hands carefully with soap after going to the bathroom, after changing soiled diapers and before preparing any meals. As well, anyone suffering from diarrhea should avoid swimming in public pools or lakes, sharing baths with others, and preparing food for others.

Also, people should not go to work until diarrhea resolves, especially those who work with young children, handle food or provide health or personal services to others. Children with diarrhea should not attend daycare or camps.

The region is continuing to investigate the outbreak in order to determine the exact source of the outbreak.

"Ongoing monitoring will continue for the next couple of weeks to identify any ongoing spread that may require additional control measures," says Dr. Pierre Plourde, WRHA Medical Officer of Health.

Russian Pavilion organizers are working with the Winnipeg Health Region to ensure that no further transmission occurs.

The most common sources of E. coli infection are raw meat products, especially ground beef. Dr. Plourde said it is important the public remember to ensure proper handling of raw meat products, especially ground beef both in home and public kitchens, including:

  • Washing hands after handling raw meat products, especially before handling other food items such as lettuce, hamburger buns, etc., which could become contaminated by unwashed hands.

  • Ensuring any surfaces (plates, platters, countertops, utensils) that have come into contact with raw meat products do not come into contact with cooked meat unless thoroughly washed;

  • Thoroughly cleaning dish cloths after handling raw meat products or wiping counters; and

  • Cooking all ground beef to an internal temperature of 71 degrees Celsius.

In addition, Dr. Plourde recommends that when eating in public venues, consumers may want to observe hygiene practices in kitchen workers, especially availability and frequency of hand washing.

For information, contact:

Kathryn McBurney
Media Relations
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
926-7868
782-2898 (c)

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