The Fulton County Health Department has issued a statement about an E. coli O157 outbreak among children in a local daycare. All confirmed cases being investigated are associated with the same daycare facility. At least two children are hospitalized as a result of their illnesses.
Children who attend school or daycare who are sick with a diarrheal illness should stay home until they are completely well. If a child has an E. coli infection, they must have two negative stool tests and be symptom-free before returning to daycare of school. In addition, adults with E. coli O157 infections who work in health care settings or food service should stay home and not go to work when they are ill.
E. coli O157 is a contagious illness that causes severe watery and/or bloody diarrhea. Symptoms of an E. coli infection usually begin one to eight days after exposure to the pathogenic bacteria and last about 10 days. Some people recover on their own, but others, especially children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems, become so ill they must be hospitalized.
If the illness is not treated, it can progress into hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a serious complication that can cause kidney failure and death. In fact, if an E. coli infection is treated with antibiotics, the risk of HUS development increases. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis so this does not occur. If your child has been suffering from diarrhea for more than two days, take her to the doctor as soon as possible.
Hand washing is the best defense against this infection. Always wash hands after using the bathroom, before preparing or serving food to others, before eating, after contact with animals, and after changing diapers. Children under the age of 5 should avoid direct contact with animals, such as petting zoos or fairs.