Only 20 percent of the estimated 265,000 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) cases annually in the United States involve outbreaks that the public hears about, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

landonhuston_406x250Two-year-old Landon Huston, currently at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, is one of the solo cases that comprise the other 80 percent of the nation’s potentially deadly E. coli infections. Media generally doesn’t cover such cases extensively and in many individual cases no one but the families and public health agencies are informed.

Landon is on life support after his Shiga toxin-producing E. coli brought on the life-threatening kidney ailment known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome or HUS. It destroys red blood cells, with the potential for complete kidney failure. Many victims require transplants.

Neither Landon’s parents nor the doctors at Children’s know where the boy was infected with the E. coli bacteria. The Ennis, TX, family knows only the that the boy began suffering from stomach virus-like symptoms after they returned to their home after a short trip to Oklahoma.

After two surgeries, they are hoping Landon will soon be able to breath on his on. His parents, Lindsey Montgomery and John Huston, have established a GoFundMe page to help with Landon’s medical expenses.

“We are asking for your help with the unexpected expenses that have come up to get them through this time,” it says.  “Anything would help and if you are not able to, please pray for this family and Landon.”

In addition to the 265,000 illnesses annually, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli sends 3,600 people to hospitals each year, and results in 30 deaths. Most cases of HUS in the United States are caused by E. coli O157:H7 infections.

All STEC infections must be reported to state health departments, but CDC says not all ill people seek medical care. Also, not all health providers obtain a specimen for diagnostic laboratory testing, or they fail to submit the specimen for testing, further contributing to the likelihood that there are more illnesses occurring than are on record.

E. coli infections, both solo cases and those involved in outbreaks, are transmitted through consumption of contaminated foods, ingestion of contaminated water, or direct contact with an infected person, such as in a child-care setting, or from animals in their environment.

Texas health authorities are doing a trace back investigation in an attempt to determine how Landon was infected.

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