05/05/2012 01:21 EDT | Updated 07/05/2012 05:12 EDT

New Brunswick E. coli Outbreak: Officials Have 'Leads' In Search For E. coli Outbreak Source


FREDERICTON - Health officials in New Brunswick say they have some leads in their search for the source of an E. coli outbreak that they believe has left people ill in three communities.

However, a spokeswoman for the Health Department said today there's, "still no clear evidence of the source of the outbreak."

Jennifer Graham says in an email that 27 cases of bloody diarrhea suspected to be caused by E. coli have been reported since Tuesday.

The first person began showing symptoms on April 23 and as of Friday night 23 cases were reported in Miramichi, two in Saint John and two in Bathurst.

So far, 11 cases have tested positive as E. coli O157, a severe strain that can cause serious illness and sometimes lead to kidney failure.

That is also the same strain detected during the Walkerton, Ont., tainted water tragedy in 2000 that killed seven people.

Graham says officials are unsure if the Saint John cases are linked to the Miramichi cases, or if they are from a different source.

She said 14 people have been hospitalized, eight of whom remain in hospital.

New Brunswick gets an average of 12 cases of E. coli per year.

The Health Department is advising people to practice regular hand washing, washing of fruits and vegetables and properly cooking meat.