Two Utah children are dead from E. coli infections in recent days,  and local  health officials do not know how the victims were exposed to the pathogen.  The children were both residents of the polygamist enclave of Hildale, UT where Deputy Marshal Daniel Musser says it’s possible other  children  in the area might have also been exposed to the bacteria.

On Saturday, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department in a Facebook announcement said it is investigating a possible E. coli outbreak in Hildale.

The department said the outbreak is confined to a small area with negligible risk to the rest of the community.

Earlier a department spokesman said  water tests have all come back clean, which means the investigation is now centered on contaminated food and/or  exposure to animals as the source of the sometimes deadly pathogen.

The outbreak of unknown origin centered on a contained, single location means the community at large is not at risk.   Except for the occasional isolated E. coli case,  it’s been some time since Washington County, UT has experienced any sort of E. coli outbreak.

The two children who died were hospitalized at the time of their deaths, and  both deaths occurred in the last two weeks.  The department will post addition information on Facebook when it becomes available.

Hildale and adjoining Colorado City, AZ  historically were known as the Short Creek Community and the area is known as a center for  breakaway Mormon fundamentalists who settled the area 100 years ago.   Fundamentalists continued to practice polygamy after about 1890 when  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints  limited Mormon men  to just one wife after about 1890.

Hildale today has about 3,000 residents, and Colorado City about 5,000.  The area is more than 300 miles south of Salt Lake City on the Utah-Arizona border.  The health department link for more information can be found here.

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