Two children who contracted E. coli infection and died as a result of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication from the infection that damages the kidneys, was the beginning of an E. coli outbreak. CBS News reported that the children died during the long Fourth of July holiday and, since that time, Nevada Public Radio KNPR says that nine additional cases have been confirmed in the towns along the Utah-Arizona border.
Utah Public Health Department confirms the Hildale, Utah, water supply shows no signs of E. coli, but the health officials continue investigating the cases to identify the source of the outbreak. Until the source is determined, officials warned residents of the two towns at the center of the outbreak, Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, to avoid consuming raw milk or recently purchased ground beef, according to Food Safety News. Officials say that there is no link to the products and that the warning is standard in such cases.
The two children, a 3-year-old boy and 6-year-old Gabriella Fullerton, who died were not related, but lived in the same apartment building in Hildale the Salt Lake Tribune explains. The girl’s mother, Linda, believes the source could have been dirty diapers some apartment building residents discarded on the lawn and that were subsequently torn apart by dogs. Linda, the children and other neighbors cleaned up the mess.
Food Safety News also notes that E. coli symptoms usually present within one to 10 days after exposure and usually, healthy adults recover after five to seven days. Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, vomiting and fever, and those with these symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that children younger than 5 years old and older adults are more likely than others to develop serious illness and HUS, yet older, healthier children and adults of any age can become seriously ill.
The infection caused by E. coli is usually spread to humans if they get even tiny amounts of human or animal feces in their mouths. It can spread by unwashed hands, contaminated water or food and exposure to animals. The CDC advises people to wash hands thoroughly after contact with animals or their environment, using the bathroom and changing diapers. Additionally, people should wash their hands thoroughly before preparing or eating food and preparing and feeding bottles or foods to an infant or toddler. If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can be substituted. Additional hygiene and safe food preparation tips can be found on the CDC’s website.
Food Safety News
Salt Lake Tribune
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention