February 19, 2020

More Details on Whatcom County, WA E. coli Outbreak

The Whatcom County Health Department is investigating a STEC (Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli) outbreak associated with the Milk Makers Fest at the Northwest Fairgrounds on April 21 through April 23, 2015. Six cases have been identified so far; five are of primary school children who attended the event.

E. coli OutbreakPublic health officials are interviewing the children who attended the event and their parents to try to pinpoint the food, water source, or activity that caused the illnesses. The department is also monitoring to make sure the illness doesn’t spread from person to person. If any person goes to a doctor with diarrhea, a stool culture will be taken. Any positive E. coli results will be reported to officials, since this is a reportable illness.

Three of the five children had stool cultures positive for E. coli, presumed O57, pending confirmation at the Washington State Laboratory. The stool cultures were also positive for shiga toxin 2. Two of the children were not tested, but have the same symptoms and the same exposure as those who have been diagnosed. Another older child who attended the event has lab confirmed STEC.

Two of the children have been hospitalized. Another adult, without a connection to the Milk Makers Fest or any of the other cases, has been hospitalized with a lab-confirmed STEC infection.

The department has sent a letter to parents and guardians of these schools: Ferndale School District, Bellingham Public Schools, Lynden School District, Blaine School District, and Nooksack Valley School District about this outbreak. Parents are asked to watch their children for the symptoms of an E. coli infection.

Those symptoms include abdominal pain and cramps, and watery and/or bloody diarrhea. A mild fever may also be present. If your child has had any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately. Early medical attention is the best way to prevent serious complications, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can cause kidney failure and death.

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