Repeated precautions always welcome

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A bacterial outbreak is almost always a mystery in the beginning. In any case, a warning from health officials would be welcome.

Just as media organizations were gearing up for questions – having heard of an E. coli outbreak – Nova Scotia’s chief medical health officer said a news release was in the preparation stage. Dr. Robert Strang also said the health department hasn’t yet identified a particular food source as the culprit.

Illnesses relating to the outbreak were first reported Dec. 23, however, thus people might well have expected a public advisory sooner.

The cases in this province have ranged from the areas of Truro, New Glasgow, Halifax and Antigonish. A Stellarton resident was hospitalized with kidney failure after falling ill, although that person is reported to be recovering.

Along with the warning of the outbreak comes advice on how to prevent the spread of E. coli, including of course thorough hand washing after using the washroom and when dealing with foods, washing and sanitizing food preparation surfaces, ensuring meat is cooked to the appropriate internal temperature and washing and peeling raw vegetables and fruits.

That’s good advice – and it’s advice that should be heeded at all times, not just when we’re alerted to an outbreak.

Fortunately, of the illnesses reported, there have been no serious outcomes. But people need to remember how grave some of these strains can be. E. coli and many other potentially food-borne pathogens can be fatal.

Possibly health authorities and departments don’t want to cause unnecessary alarm – the odds of coming in contact with the bug, after all, aren’t huge, given a dozen or so cases in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

But a general advisory would be in line, along with the accompanying information about how best to take precautions. E. coli and other harmful bacteria strains are something the population doesn’t encounter every day, so reminders on how to be on guard would be helpful.

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Truro, New Glasgow Antigonish Stellarton

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