Response to Shigella outbreak ongoing in Edmonton Zone

November 17, 2022

EDMONTON — Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the City of Edmonton continue to work closely with inner city shelters, partners and the provincial government on a response to the ongoing Shigella outbreak in Edmonton Zone.

To date, we have identified 173 people with Shigella and 115 of those people required hospitalization. This outbreak is primarily affecting members of Edmonton’s inner city population. The first person became ill on August 17, 2022 with a confirmed diagnosis on August 29, 2022. No deaths have been reported connected to this outbreak.

Throughout September, as part of AHS’ response, our teams connected with shelters, inner-city agencies, and local family physicians about the growing cluster of cases. This included regular visits from AHS’ Environmental Public Health team to provide advice and guidance on limiting the spread of illness. In early October, AHS reached out to the City of Edmonton for support and in mid-October AHS struck a task force to coordinate resources and a response between partners.

“We recognize that the case numbers in this outbreak are concerning and we are doing everything we can to care for this vulnerable population, including coordinating additional resources and supports in the downtown area. Thankfully, we are starting to see a bend in the curve of case numbers,” explains Dr. Michael Zakhary, AHS Edmonton Zone Medical Officer of Health.

Shigella is a disease that’s commonly associated with diarrhea, as well as fever, nausea and stomach cramps. It can cause severe illness, resulting in hospitalization and it spreads when someone comes into contact with fecal matter from an infected person and also by eating food contaminated with the bacteria.

Together with AHS, the City of Edmonton, Alberta Health, Alberta Community and Social Services, Edmonton area shelters and other partner organizations, the task force has shared some health guidance and mobilized additional hygiene resources.

Some of those resources include:

“The number of Edmontonians experiencing homelessness doubled during the pandemic,” said Christel Kjenner, the City of Edmonton’s Director of Affordable Housing and Homelessness. “Existing agencies are struggling to keep up with the demand for services for unsheltered community members. We are working closely with AHS and our community partners to limit the spread of this illness.”

The task force meets weekly and will continue to closely monitor the case numbers and the impact of the added resources.

Although the risk to the general public remains low, AHS would like to remind people that proper hand hygiene helps prevent the spread of many illnesses, including Shigella.

Anyone experiencing symptoms that might be related to Shigella or anyone with questions or concerns about their health is encouraged to speak with their healthcare provider or call Health Link at 811.

Anyone who wishes to help or donate is encouraged to visit or call them at 780-426-0500 and inquire about current needs.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.