Health officials say a dozen cases of E. coli have been confirmed in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have been notified but the source of the potentially deadly bacteria has yet to be found.

Seven cases are confirmed across Nova Scotia - in Halifax, Antigonish, Truro and Stellarton - while another five cases are confirmed in New Brunswick. Two people fell ill in Saint John and another three in Fredericton.

Health officials in Nova Scotia say those affected fell ill between Dec. 23 and Boxing Day.

Some of the people went to hospital complaining of blood in their stool – a common symptom of the bacteria. Two people remain in hospital in Nova Scotia – one person in serious condition with kidney failure.

In New Brunswick, the infected people all showed up at local emergency rooms, but only one has been admitted to hospital.

Health officials have yet to determine what is causing people to become sick, but say it’s likely a common food product that has been distributed in both provinces.

Health officials in both provinces are treating the outbreak as a common investigation and are collaborating on the case.

“Certainly, my experience in outbreaks like this is that it’s not unusual that you are never able to identify, at the end of the day, a clear identification of a single source,” says Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer.

Health officials say it is important that people wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers.

They recommend taking proper safety precautions when handling food, such as washing or peeling all raw vegetables and fruits before eating. They also warn it is important to cook all meats thoroughly.

Anyone experiencing symptoms such as stomach cramps, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting should seek advice from their doctor.