A middle-school student from Davidson County, NC, has been hospitalized for more than a week with symptoms related to an apparent E. coli infection that sickened three children in late December, according to a Monday report in a local newspaper.
The student was one of two Tyro Middle School students admitted for their symptoms. A second student was released in recent days, said Jen Hames, health education supervisor at the Davidson County Health Department, and a third was confirmed to have an E. coli infection but not admitted to the hospital because symptoms weren’t as severe. The school is located in the central part of the state, about 22 miles south of Winston-Salem. Hames said that local and state health officials are trying to find a common infection source but have so far been unsuccessful. “At this point, we’ve interviewed all three families and tried to establish some commonality, but have not been able to,” she said. Hames added that no other potential E. coli cases have been reported to the health department and that the focus now was on prevention. “It’s important you are washing your hands frequently throughout the day, but specifically before handling food, after using the bathroom, after changing diapers, after interacting with someone who is ill and after handling animals,” she said. E. coli are naturally occurring bacteria that normally live in the intestines of people and animals. While most E. coli are harmless, some produce Shiga toxin, which are found in animals, especially ruminant livestock, such as sheep, deer, goats and cows. Transmission can occur after contact with these animals or their feces or after consumption of undercooked meats or unpasteurized foods or drinks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of E. coli infection may include acute diarrhea, including bloody diarrhea, vomiting, severe abdominal cramps and low-grade fever. Anyone with general questions or concerns can call the Davidson County Health Department at (336) 242-2300. For more information on E. coli, go to epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/ecoli.html or www.cdc.gov/ecoli/general/index.html.