Local media are reporting at least five Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli cases have been reported at suburban Huntley High School.

In a letter released to parents on Wednesday, officials said the McHenry County Health Department had contacted them about the outbreak.

Health officials are working to determine “common exposures” among the five individuals diagnosed with the illness, but no definitive source has been identified.

According to the press release, any child who experiences symptoms of E. coli must be kept home until they are symptom-free for at least 48 hours.

About E. coli infections

Anyone with 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. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications.

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, tiredness, 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.

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