Dr. Judy MacDonald, Deputy Medical Officer of Health of Alberta Health Services
Credits: BRENDAN MCKAY/QMI AGENCY
Alberta Health Services confirmed the number of cases had climbed to eight -- three in the Calgary area, one in the central part of the province and four in the Edmonton area.
"It is an enteric infection that can be serious, especially when there are complications," said Dr. Judy MacDonald, medical officer of health with AHS.
"It's preventable by trying to engage in safe food handling, and when you're out a restaurant use the same approach you would use at home."
E. coli infection, which is sometimes identified by abdominal cramps and bloody stool, is often linked with cattle, and particularly ground meats, but there is no evidence so far the current cases are the result of beef products from Alberta's XL Foods that have been recalled due to potential contamination.
E. coli can be contracted through tainted food or water or through contact with animals, for example, at petting zoos, said MacDonald, adding sufferers may not experience symptoms for up to 10 days after their initial contact with the bacteria.
She said the disease is preventable by ensuring ground meats, especially beef, are cooked thoroughly -- to an internal temperature of 71 degrees Celsius -- as well as by not letting other foods come in contact with dishes that raw meats have been placed on. Albertans are also encouraged not to consume any milk or juices that are not pasteurized and to practice regular hand-washing.
Meanwhile, Canadian Food Inspection Agency spokesman Tim O'Connor confirmed that XL Foods products are no longer being exported across the U.S. border.
"On September 13, the facility was de-listed as being certified to export to the U.S.," O'Connor said.
"It was de-listed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at the request of U.S. food safety authorities."