Family shares story of loved one hospitalized with E. coli
As health officials continue to investigate the source of an E. coli outbreak, a Nova Scotia family whose loved one is hospitalized with the bacteria is sharing their story.
“It was fast, yeah, it was scary,” says Lynn Bourque-Gower, whose mother has been in hospital for ten days. “We thought we were losing her.”
Belle Bourque, a 69-year-old Westville resident, fell ill on Boxing Day. She thought she had the flu but ended up in hospital two days later, where she tested positive for E. coli.
“Her kidneys still aren’t quite there yet,” says her daughter.
Bourque’s illness was one of seven E. coli 0157 cases confirmed in Nova Scotia last week. Three more cases were confirmed today - bringing the total number of cases in the province to ten - and five cases have been confirmed in New Brunswick.
“Two of the three were in the Halifax area, one was in the Cumberland Health Authority,” says Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, of the latest confirmed cases.
“None of the three have been hospitalized.”
Despite the outbreak, Strang says people shouldn’t be alarmed. He says the incubation period for E. coli 0157 is one to ten days, and it isn’t uncommon to see more confirmed cases.
Based on food history and time frames, health officials believe the cases are linked. They are also narrowing their focus.
“We’re now concentrating our investigation on a smaller number of produce-type items that have been distributed through the restaurant kind of venue, rather than through grocery stores,” says Strang.
While the source hasn’t been pinpointed, the Bourque family believes lettuce may be the culprit.
“She had gone out for dinner with a group of ladies and they all had lettuce in some form, and that’s the only common thing that they ate,” says Bourque-Gower.
Three of the four women fell ill.
Strang says lettuce is a possibility but can’t confirm whether it is the source of the outbreak at this time.
The Bourques say if the bacteria did come from a restaurant, what is most concerning is how vulnerable patrons are.
“If it’s something you’re preparing yourself at home, that’s up you,” says Jim Bourque, Belle’s husband. “But when you’re eating out, you’re vulnerable.”
Doctors are optimistic her kidneys will start functioning again, but her family says she has a long road ahead of her.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster