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Questions raised in Saskatchewan after Alberta daycare E. coli outbreak

Alberta has been facing an E. coli outbreak in daycares in and around Calgary, but there’s been no sign of the virus rearing it’s head in Saskatchewan.

Alberta Health Services has declared an E. coli outbreak at six Calgary daycares and five additional sites “that share a central kitchen.”

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AHS confirmed the outbreak last week. AHS said on Sep. 5 that there were 56 lab-confirmed cases linked to the outbreak. Fifteen children have been hospitalized and up to 50 have presented to hospital.

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The public health authority said 11 total sites have had a closure order issued.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection can include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting and watery or bloody diarrhea. Severe illness can sometimes require hospitalization.

Dean Dodge is the CEO for the YMCA in Saskatoon and said they have over 300 kids in their licensed childcare.

“We have childcares that are 35 spaces up to 90 spaces,” Dodge said.

He said they have breakfast, lunches and snacks throughout the day for their kids which is prepared by professional cooks.

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“It’s a highly regulated industry.”

He said the situation in Calgary was incredibly disconcerting, noting over 300 families were impacted.

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“The food that we produce stays in that centre. We don’t transport food, which there’s a risk to transporting food.”

He said if children are sick they don’t come to childcare, and if a child gets sick at childcare parents are contacted by staff to make sure the child gets taken care of.

Dodge explained that they go through licensing and inspection each year, calling it a very extensive process.

He said the inspection entails things like furnace and boiler inspections, fire extinguisher inspections, and kitchen and food handling inspections.

“We work regularly with the ministry, consultants and staff every month, every week of the year on all the different pieces that we do.”

He said inspections are usually scheduled, but noted inspectors will pop in unannounced from time to time as well.

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He said meals follow the Canadian Food Guide, adding that the community has become very diverse and that there is much more variety with meals over the last five years.

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Global News reached out the Ministry of Health and received a statement.

“Licensed child care centres are inspected annually by Saskatchewan Health Authority Public Health Inspectors. General sanitation, infection control measures, and food services are assessed during inspection based on established criteria,” the statement reads.

The ministry noted that child care facilities in Saskatoon that are affiliated with the ones that were shut down in the Calgary area were inspected within the last two weeks, but noted there were no issues detected.

“If an issue is found during a child care centre inspection, it is indicated on the centre’s physical license available publicly within the centre.”

— With files from Global News’ Adam Toy

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