FREDERICTON (GNB) – Public Health believes the source of the recent E. coli 157:H7 outbreak in the Miramichi area has passed through the food supply chain and no longer poses a risk to the public.

Public Health first became aware of the situation on April 30 and has investigated more than 30 cases of bloody diarrhea, a symptom commonly associated with E. coli 157:H7 infection, 13 of which have been confirmed.

"At this time, the case count remains steady and no new cases have been reported," said Dr. Eilish Cleary, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health. "This suggests that the source of the contamination remained in the food supply chain for only a short period. In all likelihood, the contaminated food was gone soon after those who became sick began experiencing symptoms, since most individuals who are infected with E. coli 157:H7 only start having symptoms one to three days after consuming the contaminated food."

Public Health focused its investigation on food sources when a check on municipal water test results came back normal. As part of the investigation, interviews were conducted and ill individuals answered a food questionnaire detailing what types of foods they had consumed in the week prior to the onset of their illness, including any meals eaten at restaurants.

Public Health completed inspections of the various restaurants often mentioned in the questionnaires to ensure that food handling and safety guidelines were being observed and corrections were made if needed.

Responses to the questionnaire indicated that the majority of confirmed cases ate at Jungle Jim's restaurant in Miramichi in the days prior to becoming ill, indicating a probable site for exposure to the contaminated food product.

"Food samples taken from Jungle Jim's tested negative for E. coli 157:H7," said Cleary. "However, as most of the confirmed cases ate at this restaurant, it is likely that the contaminated food source was present in the restaurant for a short period but that contaminated products had been used up when testing took place. Jungle Jim's has co-operated fully with Public Health during this investigation, including a thorough sanitation of its kitchen and the completion of a food safety course provided by the Department of Health."

To better identify the precise food items involved in the E. coli outbreak, Public Health is conducting a case control study in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada. Those who dined at Jungle Jim's between April 23 and 26 but who did not experience any illness and who are willing to participate in the study are asked to call 1-888-246-8068. Participants will complete a detailed food questionnaire with the goal of identifying which foods were consumed by those who did not become infected with E. coli 157:H7 so that the information may be compared with the data of those who experienced illness.

The results of the study will be made public.


●    Department of Health (Public Health):