The Loudoun County Health Department of Virginia has notified the public that several people who came in contact with goats at Georges Mill Farm in Lovettsville, VA, between March 6 and April 20 were exposed to Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli. Several individuals experienced diarrhea and other symptoms of illness.
The bacterium was isolated and identified by the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services.
Coming into direct contact with animals, particularly livestock, presents a risk for illnesses. People should remember that, while animal interactions can be fun and educational, it’s always important to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals, such as washing your hands after being in contact with animals.
The Loudoun County Health Department is communicating directly with those who are known to have come in contact with goats at Georges Mill Farm. Anyone who had contact with these goats during this time frame and has not yet communicated with the Health Department should:
- Monitor for illness and seek medical attention if you become ill. Let your healthcare provider know of your possible exposure to assist in your diagnosis and treatment.
- Report your exposure to the Loudoun County Health Department by completing this short survey.
The staff at the farm have assisted the Health Department in identifying who may be at risk of illness and by helping to prevent future infections. There is no evidence of ongoing risk to visitors at Georges Mill Farm.
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.
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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