The number of children sickened by a massive E. coli outbreak at 11 Calgary-area daycares has nearly doubled.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) says 96 cases have been confirmed as of Wednesday afternoon.
Twenty-two children are in hospital due to serious symptoms — 16 at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the rest at the Peter Lougheed Centre.
“We have dedicated teams of specialists focused on diagnosing and supporting any children who present to the emergency room or may need to be admitted,” said Dr. Francesco Rizzuti, an AHS medical officer of health for the Calgary Zone.
Danielle Redwood’s two-year-old son Doulie is one of the children impacted.
While he has not been admitted, he still needs daily blood tests.
The worry is a condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) that affects kidney function.
“Depending on the day, it’s been five to seven hours at the hospital,” Redwood said.
“I’ve been losing sleep over it. I know a lot of moms, when we were talking, we’re all tearing up. It’s very scary to know what could potentially happen.”
Cora Constantinescu, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, says children are considered high-risk for developing HUS.
“Somewhere in the 10 to 15 per cent risk,” she said.
“This is why it’s really important to detect this early because you want to make sure that their kidneys are getting the right amount of hydration or volume in their body.”
The source of the outbreak is still under investigation.
Rizzuti says public health inspectors have collected and are testing food samples from Fueling Minds, the central kitchen used by all the daycares.
“With this type of outbreak, we may not find a food source. Our main focus thus far has been to prevent any additional transmission or spread,” he said.
CTV News reviewed AHS health inspection reports for Fueling Minds, dating back to 2021.
There were some violations, including lack of sanitizer in the kitchen, dirty food contact surfaces, broken appliances and food not being stored at safe temperatures.
There were follow-up inspections and fixes — the most recent in April.
“Before this outbreak, this kitchen was in compliance with health regulations,” Rizzuti said.
Six Fueling Brains Academy locations in Calgary and five other sites will remain closed until the issue is resolved.
Rizzuti adds that not all the daycares have confirmed cases, but says the move is a precautionary measure.
As for Redwood, the outbreak has shaken her trust in Doulie’s daycare, and she says she wants to see a change.
“This can’t happen again. We don’t even know if all the kids are out of the woods yet,” she said.
AHS has launched a central website with information for parents of kids at these daycares.
It includes a list of symptoms, what to do if a child or anyone else in the household has symptoms and how to reduce the risk of getting sick from E. coli.
AHS also says it has provided more than 2,000 stool sample testing kits to all of the daycares for parents and staff to pick up.
Public health is monitoring all of those results and is following up with the people who are impacted.