An outbreak of E. coli at several Calgary daycares has infected more than 300 people and sent more than 20 children to hospital.
Most of those infected are children and have contracted hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious kidney complication.
Dr. Iris Gorfinkel, a family physician, told PKBNEWS: The morning show Friday, it is a “very scary disease because it can take a healthy child and make them very sick, put them on dialysis as we have seen, and even be responsible for chronic kidney failure” .
It’s a nightmare for any parent.
Martha Friendly, executive director of the think tank Childcare Resource and Research Unit, said there are several things parents should look for in child care centers if they’re wondering if their center is safe.
But she also stressed that E. coli goes beyond the usual safety concerns at daycares, telling PKBNEWS the outbreak is not normal.
“The basics like health and safety, like food safety, for example, are so fundamental that they should be given,” she said, speaking from Toronto.
Alberta health inspectors visited the central kitchen of the Fueling Minds child care network, the kitchen where the outbreak began, four times in 2023 before people got sick, with two violations found and corrected.
Inspectors came again after the outbreak and discovered two live roaches and at least 20 dead roaches near the dishwashing area, among other violations.
Investigators have not yet determined the exact cause of the E. coli, although Friendly said monitoring should be stricter.
She said parents can view health inspections on provincial health ministry websites, as well as licensing information.
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When it comes to non-food contamination concerns, she told PKBNEWS there are several positive signs parents can look for, including staff training.
“Staff must have qualifications in early childhood education, that is, training for work, and have decent employment and working conditions,” she said, adding that Good communication between operators and parents is also a good sign.
The Friendly organization also lists cleanliness and nutritional value of food, as well as clear procedures for dealing with food allergies, among a list of important factors in determining the quality of a daycare.
To some extent, she cautioned, it may be “buyer beware.”
“Parents really need to do their homework before deciding whether they’re going to trust a daycare,” she said.
“Parents have a role to play, but they should expect public scrutiny. »
— with files from Adam Toy and Stephanie Swenrude
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