E-coli outbreak in Quebec: 815 confirmed cases; 3 may have died

(CNN) — Quebec authorities have reported 815 confirmed cases of the cancer-causing e-coli bug in the province, although about half are now considered chronic, the Canada Journal said Wednesday.

Cases in the past two weeks have remained steady at roughly 2 per day.

In February, the province declared an “unusual” outbreak and then followed up with an “extraordinary” update Wednesday, which outlined the latest steps.

E-coli often cause bloody diarrhea and then milder ailments in the first few days. The number of people who have died since December appears to be growing. But the total number is unknown because some people have yet to arrive at a hospital in a line to be tested for a specific type of e-coli.

“The average is probably about two per day,” Leopold Genest, a spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, told the Canada Journal.

Genest said that the cost of the emergency response is about $175,000.

So far, three people who died might have contracted the bug while drinking drinking water from the River Viger, the Canada Journal said.

The discovery of the bacteria in the upper reaches of the river raises questions about water quality. If the bacteria remained undetected even in those waters, it’s hard to see how it could spread into the rest of the province, Genest said.

Quebec provides the equivalent of drinking water to more than one-third of its province’s 3.3 million people, making it one of the most water-rich provinces.

Canada officials said in a news release that tests from early April showed a significant reduction in the concentration of e-coli in the Viger River. It also said the water quality seems “stable” and it is unlikely that more deaths will be reported.

The water agency called on residents who suspect they might have the disease to get tested.

In recent weeks, the government has urged people to drink bottled water, boil their water before consumption, avoid chlorine-treated water and to not drink directly from the tap.

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