October 4, 2023

Whatcom County E. coli Outbreak Grows; CDC Pitches In

The E. coli outbreak associated with the Milk Makers Fest at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden, Washington in April has grown to include 45 cases. There are now 23 confirmed cases and 22 probable cases. Eight people have been hospitalized as a result of their illness. There are several children who have hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The case count is now increasing more slowly.

E coli bacteriaInterviews are continuing to determine if there was a common food or water source or activity, such as the petting zoo at the event. Lab tests have not yet been returned to determine which serotype of E. coli O157 has sickened people. It is taking some time for results to come back.

The state is asking for federal help in solving this outbreak, according to the Seattle Times. Dr. Scott Lindquist, Washington’s epidemiologist for communicable diseases, has requested the assistance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The event, which was held April 21 – 23, 2015, was attended by more than 1,300 first-grade children. Interviews and analysis, along with environmental sampling, takes time and many hands. Tests that may show whether the pathogenic bacteria was on surfaces or the environment at the fair grounds are still pending.

Children who suffer from HUS can have life-long health problems, including kidney disease and other issues. E. coli O157 bacteria are found in the intestines of cattle, goats, and other ruminants. Those animals do not get sick because their cells do not have receptors for the bacteria to bind to. Humans have that receptor so are vulnerable to the bacteria.


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