FREDERICTON (GNB) – Lettuce sold at KFC/Taco Bell restaurants is the most probable source of the E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in New Brunswick.

“Based on the information we have collected and shared with other provinces, we believe that lettuce has been a common food source among cases,” said Dr. Eilish Cleary, chief medical officer of health. “Since lettuce has a limited shelf life, it is highly unlikely that some from the affected lots remain in restaurants.”

In New Brunswick, six people have been diagnosed with E. coli 0157:H7. Laboratory results have confirmed that all six cases were linked to other cases in Nova Scotia and Ontario.

The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health continues to work closely with public health officials from Nova Scotia, Ontario and the federal government.

Cleary reminded New Brunswickers it is important that they wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers, that they take food safety precautions and that they follow these rules when preparing to eat fruits and vegetables:

●    wash fruits and vegetables before eating, especially if they are to be eaten uncooked. Be sure to wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before handling food, including fruits and vegetables;

●    make sure that knives, cutting boards and counter tops are clean before using. These can be cleaned with soap and hot water;

●    before washing fruits or vegetables, cut away any damaged areas. Then wash by rubbing briskly with your hands under clean cold running water to remove dirt and surface microorganisms;

●    produce with a firm skin or hard rind such as carrots, potatoes, melons or squash, should be scrubbed with a vegetable brush under cold running water, even if they will then be peeled and/or cut into sections;

●    discard outer leaves of lettuce or cabbage. Remove remaining leaves and thoroughly rinse leaves in water for about 30 seconds. Gently shake the water off and place them on paper towels or a clean dish towel to dry. The leaves can also be placed in a lettuce spinner and rapidly spun to remove excess water;

●    special produce cleansers are not necessary; and

●    refrigerate produce within two hours after peeling and/or cutting.

Symptoms of E. coli 0157:H7 resemble gastro-intestinal illness, such as severe cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal pain and vomiting. Some people may develop anemia and kidney problems.

Cleary said anyone experiencing symptoms compatible with E.coli 0157:H7 should seek advice from their health-care provider and should follow good hygiene practices to prevent further spread of this infection.