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Canadas E Coli Epidemic Claims Fifth Victim 144 pm ET 1744 GMT May 26 2000 WALKERTON Ontario Reuters A fifth person died on Thursday in what may be Canadas biggest E coli epidemic as police and health officials were set to decide whether to launch a criminal investigation into the outbreak Dr Murray McQuigge the areas chief medical officer said the outbreak in the mainly agricultural community of Walkerton Ontario could have been prevented and accused the local Public Utilities Commission PUC of ignoring the results of its own tests on Thursday May 18 which he said established the towns water was unsafe He said 10 people including four children remained in a critical condition struck down by bacteria in the towns water system An infant and three adults died from E coli complications on Wednesday At least 500 people have been infected in Walkerton a town of 5000 people about two hours drive northwest of Toronto Dr James Cairns deputy chief coroner for the province of Ontario said his department wants an inquest into the deaths We are concerned about public safety he said We want to know how the contamination occurred how it was managed and how people died It is believed the water may have been contaminated by manure washed into the system by recent heavy rains There may well be more people who will die I think we could have prevented all these deaths McQuigge told a news conference adding that new cases could emerge as late as Monday as the bacteria can have an incubation period of up to 10 days before symptoms appear McQuigge said he would meet with health and provincial police officials on Friday to try to decide where blame for deaths is to be laid There is probably going to be a criminal investigation he said Walkerton residents were outraged as news spread that it is possible that the tragedy could have been prevented A local
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