E. coli outbreak linked to Calgary daycares climbs to 231 cases, 26 in hospital

E. coli outbreak linked to Calgary daycares climbs to 231 cases, 26 in hospital
Brittany Chapman is photographed with her three-year-old daughter, Taylor, who got sick from E. coli, in a handout photo.

With an E. coli outbreak linked to multiple Calgary daycares surpassing 200 cases, the parent of one sick child says she has found another centre to look after her daughter.

Brittany Chapman said she is on high alert and doesn’t want three-year-old Taylor to return to the Fueling Brains Academy located in the southwest New Brighton neighbourhood.

Her new daycare will require a two-hour commute each day, but Chapman said food safety is a priority and the facility has an on-site chef.

“I just feel a lot more comfortable going to a facility where they have an in-house, Red Seal chef who is literally cooking the food in front of my child and carrying it over to her plate,” Chapman said.

Alberta Health Services said Monday that 231 lab-confirmed cases have been connected to the outbreak, declared earlier this month, with 25 children and one adult receiving care in hospital.

Twenty-one have severe illness or hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Health investigators have said it’s highly likely food from a central kitchen used by 11 daycares in the city is the source of the outbreak.

However, they have not yet been able to identify the food item.

The kitchen that provided food for the daycares remains closed as health officials continue to investigate.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said Sunday that she has asked her health minister and her children and family services minister to do a full assessment of the outbreak.

Chapman said her daughter spent seven days in hospital with other sick daycare children, most of them one to three years old.

“All you would hear in the (pediatrics) area is kids just screaming,” Chapman said.

“You’re not only dealing with your own child who’s confused, hurting, scared and overwhelmed, you’re listening to all these other children just screaming in distress for seven to eight hours of the day.”

Her daughter was released from the Alberta Children’s Hospital on Saturday, but she can’t go to a daycare yet. Children have to get a negative test result and be 21 days free of symptoms before they can return.

Chapman said she hopes Taylor can start at her new care centre Oct. 1.

Closure orders for four of the 11 facilities were to be lifted Monday, with orders for the others to be rescinded Tuesday.

Six are Fueling Brains daycare sites. The company has said it is concerned for and sympathizes with those affected by the outbreak.

“As a mother and a grandmother, I know this situation is a parent’s worst nightmare. It is not easy watching your child go through such a difficult and scary experience,” Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a social media post Monday.

“Rest assured our health-care system will be there for the affected families and children every step of the way. Alberta has the best health care workers in the world, and parents should be comforted in knowing they will give your child the best care possible during this difficult time.”

LaGrange was scheduled to attend a press conference Tuesday with other officials, including the province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Mark Joffe.

Chapman said finding a daycare in Calgary “is horrendous.” She called nine that had no availability before getting a spot.

Chapman said Fueling Brains also has a wait-list and some parents are eager to get their kids into those sites.

Chapman is also joining a proposed class-action lawsuit against all the daycares involved in the outbreak.

“Things need to change if these preschools and daycares are going to be supplied by a central kitchen, and I think some of that, I’m hoping, is going to come from this horrible situation that we’ve all gone through,” she said.

“I mean, that’s how change happens.”

Jamin Mike, The Canadian Press

-With files from Colette Derworiz

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2023.

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