The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has updated the E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak linked to the Cleveland County Fair again. They are updating the investigation and outbreak numbers every day at 2:00 pm. The outbreak has grown again, to include 100 patients, up two people from yesterday.
The case counts by county are as follows: Cleveland County (59), Gaston County (14, including one death), Lincoln County (14), Catawba County (1), Union County (2), Rutherford (6), York County in South Carolina (2), and Cherokee County in South Carolina (2). Now 62 children and 38 adults are part of the outbreak. Thirteen patients have been or currently are hospitalized. One child, a 2-year-old toddler, has died.
Attorney Fred Pritzker, who has filed lawsuits on behalf of clients in E. coli outbreaks, said, “E. coli and HUS patients are at risk for future kidney problems and may need transplants. Anyone who visited the fair and experienced the symptoms of E. coli food poisoning should see a doctor immediately.”
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include diarrhea, which may be watery and bloody, severe stomach and abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, and sometimes a mild fever. To be diagnosed, a stool sample is examined to see if the bacteria is present. To be included in the outbreak numbers, public health officials conducted pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) tests on the bacteria to see if the DNA matches the outbreak strain.
While the initial outbreak has most likely ended because we have passed the time frame for incubation, person to person transmission of this deadly bacteria is still very possible. Follow food safety rules carefully, wash your hands after using the bathroom and before preparing food and eating, and stay home if you are sick.