“We hope to learn a lot from this unfortunate event,” says Dr. Steven Friedman.
Doctors at the University of Calgary will study the long-term effects of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) on children.
Dr. Steven Friedman hopes to learn more about the disease by tracking children involved in an E. coli outbreak at a daycare center that occurred in the Calgary area, including Okotoks, in early September.
Friedman, a physician and professor of pediatric emergency medicine, said his focus is on children with STEC infections. He has been working to improve the care of these children for over a decade.
“We hope to learn a lot from this unfortunate incident,” Friedman said.
Friedman said more is known about children with severe E. coli infections, but little long-term follow-up has been done, especially for children with milder infections. .
“We hope that this long-term follow-up study will actually reveal the potential risks that we have identified and, hopefully, identify early signs of long-term concerns.”
Many children affected by the E. coli outbreak at daycare centers had mild or asymptomatic infections, he said.
“It’s important for us to know and understand and truly understand what potential risks and complications these children have long-term,” he said. “The data on this point is actually very limited or non-existent.”
He said it was generally accepted that people with mild infections and no early complications would not see long-term effects.
“We really don’t know. We don’t have the data to say that for sure.”
Daycare outbreaks affect large numbers of children in small areas, leading researchers to learn about groups of children they would normally not know, including those who are asymptomatic or have mild infections. became.
“We also know of a group of children who tested negative and were not infected.”
Researchers can look for what Friedman calls subtle differences in various areas between groups of children.
This type of E. coli infection is not usually the result of an outbreak, he said.
“It’s due to what we call endemicity, a type of ongoing case that occurs due to random exposure to the environment.”
Children with severe early infections are at risk for chronic kidney disease, among other complications thought to be related to the infection, he said.
“We don’t really know if there are any early signs, symptoms or concerns in children who have mild infections.”
Researchers will be able to look for potential complications early on in children with milder infections, he said.
Friedman said the study is being conducted within the larger framework of ongoing research.
“We received funding for further research with a group of children affected (by the Calgary-area outbreak).”
He said researchers will begin contacting families affected by the outbreak in the next few months, with initial follow-up starting six months after the outbreak and continuing with children for up to two years. He said he plans to track them down.
The E. coli outbreak was declared by Alberta Health Services (AHS) on Sept. 4 and affected a number of daycares in the Calgary area, including one in Okotoks.
“This was a very large outbreak,” Friedman said. “To our knowledge, this is the largest outbreak among children under 5 years of age ever reported.”
Eighteen childcare centers were closed by AHS and placed into outbreak status, along with a shared kitchen that provided meals to most of the affected childcare centers.
As of Oct. 31, AHS announced that 446 E. coli infections have been linked to the outbreak and more than 1,500 children have been cleared to return to day care.
“We saw a number of cases in about two weeks in early September that would normally occur over many years,” Friedman said.
Although the outbreak was declared over on October 31, AHS said efforts continue to help families and individuals recover.
The central kitchen, which is attracting attention as a source of infection, is still under orders to close.