County officials in Oregon have little to report on their investigation of an E. Coli outbreak that has now sickened at least 16 people.

At least a dozen of the patients have been so sick that they have been admitted to hospitals, according to a statement from the Jackson County Public Health Department. Reports of the illnesses began on Aug. 8.

Officials say they have not yet identified a source of the infections and they do not have any theories on what it might be. 

The age range for the patients is from 11 months to 65 years of age, with the median age being 23.5. The majority of the cases are in the teens and 20s, according to a county spokeswoman. Of the total cases, 62.5 percent are males. She did not report when the most recent illness began.

The Oregon Health Authority is assisting with the investigation but the county spokeswoman said the county remains the point agency in the investigation.

The county officials say the number of patients is “unusually high.”

“Right now, we do not have a definitive hypothesis on what the source of infection may be. The genome sequencing, performed at the state public health lab, has not matched any other cases in the state or nationally,” Jim Shames, Health Officer for Jackson County Public Health, said in the department’s statement. 

“Therefore, we continue to do in-depth interviews with those that have tested positive to help us identify a possible source of exposure.”

This past week Shames told local media that “a couple of children” were at OHSU “receiving emergency treatment.”

In an effort to identify other possible outbreak patients the county officials are asking area doctors and other health care providers to be on the lookout for signs of E. Coli infections and conduct appropriate testing.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses, according to the federal CDC.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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