County officials in Knoxville, TN, are investigating a cluster of E. coli infections among several children in the area, but they don’t have enough information yet to issue a public warning.

Dr. Martha Buchanan, director of the Knox County Health Department, told WATE-TV, Channel 6, the only similarity epidemiologists have found so far is that the illnesses are occurring at the same time. The county averages 19 E. coli cases annually, so reports of multiple infections is unusual.

The health director told the ABC News affiliate there is no information that the public could use to avoid exposure.

“We don’t have anything for the public to do with any information right now,” according to the Channel 6 report. 

“Right now, we’re really working on getting those details, gathering that information, and laying out that picture to see what it tells us about where we need to go next.”

Advice to consumers
Anyone in the area who develops symptoms of E. coli infection should immediately seek medical attention. People should make sure their doctors know about their possible exposure to the pathogen so the proper diagnostic testing and treatment can be provided.

Symptoms usually begin one to eight days after ingesting the bacteria, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention. Symptoms can include diarrhea that can range from mild and watery to severe and bloody; abdominal cramping, pain or tenderness; nausea; and vomiting in some people.

Healthy adults usually recover from E. coli O157:H7 infections within a week. Young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems have a greater risk of developing a life-threatening form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)