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Special Event

South Bruce Grey Health Center Officials Hold News Conference on E. coli Outbreak

Aired May 26, 2000 - 9:11 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: As promised, that briefing has started in Ontario. This is Maureen Solecki with the hospital there, South Bruce Grey Health Center. She just reported that 96 patients checked in yesterday, this after the outbreak of an E. coli bacteria infection throughout the area. We'll listen now for more.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MAUREEN SOLECKI, SOUTH BRUCE GREY HEALTH CTR.: We are in consultation with London and clinical trial sites to determine the potential for use of the medication with out patients. Mental health counselors from mental health Grey Bruce are now on site. Anyone experiencing distress over these events can drop into the hospital between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., today, Saturday and Sunday.

I have copies of the media statement to release to you, and then Dianne and I we can answer questions you may have.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SOLECKI: We have been in contact with Doctor Matsel (ph), who is the pediatric nephrologist in London, and he has also given us the name of one of the researchers on this medication because it is an experimental drug at this point at the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary, and we will be in touch with them early today, I expect through Dr. Jarvis and Dr. Porter to determine the appropriate criteria.

QUESTION: How many patients are eligible to use that right here?

SOLECKI: I think we would have to determine whether they are eligible after we have had a chance to talk to the researchers.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SOLECKI: I'm not a clinician. It is my understanding that it can be effective in reducing the symptoms of E. coli.

QUESTION: Can you explain what other use this drug has had? and can you talk about clinical trials? where else has it been used?

SOLECKI: It is just my understanding that it is under investigation at this point. It has been available for a couple of years, but it is still going through clinical trials. My understanding is that its use is primarily for the treatment of E. coli.

QUESTION: Is it licensed drug?

SOLECKI: Not at this point. It is my understanding it's an experimental drug.

QUESTION: How extraordinary is it to be brought in and used in a situation like this? in a health emergency?

SOLECKI: I think I could certainly say it's not common. Drugs are released sometimes in their experimental phase under unusual circumstances, but it certainly wouldn't be a normal occurrence.

QUESTION: Are there any known serious side effects or anything to using this drug?

SOLECKI: Not that I could comment on, not that I'm specifically aware of.

QUESTION: What sort of things are people talking to you about when they come in?

DIANNE WARAM, SOUTH BRUCE GREY HEALTH CTR.: Today, the mental health counselors will be within our facility. They have taken over a vacant wing of our hospital. We are going to be doing an assessment of the needs, based on -- on what the people are telling us today.

QUESTION: What are they telling you?

WARAM: To date? to date we're not hearing a lot from them. What we're hearing is that they are sick, they want to receive care, and we want things back to normal as quickly as we can.

QUESTION: Are the counselors there for the staff as well who may be fatigued at this point?

WARAM: Pardon?

The counselors are there for anybody in the community who requires them. We will be meeting with Mental Health Grey Bruce and developing a plan on how we are going to help this community to recover from this disaster.

Our statistics are -- our visits yesterday were out of level equivalent with the day prior. We are taking that as an indication that hopefully we have reached our peek. We are turning our attention at this time to the ongoing needs of the community.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about the other hospitals in the area. I know we have a report here today on what is happening in Walkerton, but there are also people in South Hampton, as well as London. We are getting reports from London, but we are not sure what's going on up north.

SOLECKI: I haven't had a chance to check Owen Sound today. So I could get back to you on that, if you would like.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SOLECKI: That could be, and I'm not aware. There were two patients in South Hampton whose diagnosis hadn't been confirmed, and one patient in Owen Sound, but I'm not aware as to whether the patient was transferred. I can check for you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

WARAM: We have been in touch with them and we've offered our services, and they informed us that, yes, they had already procured their services for them?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

WARAM: No, they have contracted out independently.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that people who are already in a hospital late last week may have become infected while drinking water at the hospital?

HEMMER: You have been listening to very latest health officials there at a local hospital there in Walkerton, Ontario, that is the South Bruce Grey Health Center. A couple of women there taking questions from reporters.

What we do know at this time is that this outbreak apparently did happen on Wednesday of this past week. Thus far, five people are said to have died as a result of this; hundreds more have reported sick. The early estimate we had was at least 600 suffering from conditions of vomiting and diarrhea.

Authorities believe the outbreak started in the water supply system there in the small town of Walkerton. As you see on the map right there, just across the lake there from Michigan. This is deadliest outbreak of E. Coli bacteria in the history of Canada. And it appears, thus far, that they could be getting even more people today who report in to various health centers because they feel sickened as well.

We will continue to track it. Again, it is a story that is developing at this hour. More news throughout this morning.

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