December 7, 2016

E. coli Outbreak in Dawson County, Montana at Richey Reunion

An E. coli outbreak at the Richey Centennial Event & All Class Reunion in Richey, Montana in Dawson County has sickened at least 30 people in 8 states. That event was held from July 15 to July 17, 2016.

E coli bacteria

Officials are narrowing down the source, but don’t know at this time what may have caused the outbreak. Local food vendors who provided food for the events have been “very cooperative” according to the Dawson County Health Department Facebook page.

At least six people have been hospitalized because their illnesses from this Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria (STEC) are so serious. Since people from different areas attended the reunion, there are patients in eight different states and six counties in Montana. New cases are still being reported and more lab results are pending as of July 28, 2016, the last date the county’s Facebook page was updated.

People who attended the event are asked by the Montana Department of Health and Human Services to fill out a questionnaire to aid investigators in their search for the bacterial source. Even if you didn’t get sick, please fill it out. Comparing what ill persons and people who are not sick ate can help narrow down the foods that are suspicious.

You can also call your local health department for a confidential phone interview. Information in that questionnaire or any interviews will remain private and will not be shared with anyone else other than local or state health departments and only for the purposes of this specific outbreak investigation.

The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea that may be bloody and/or watery, a mild fever, and possible nausea and vomiting. These symptoms usually begin three or four days after exposure to the bacteria.

If this infection is improperly treated with antibiotics, or if the patient is very young or elderly, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can develop. This serious complication can cause kidney failure, seizures, and death. The symptoms of HUS include little or no urine output, easy bruising, skin rash, lethargy, and bleeding from the nose or mouth. If anyone is experiencing these symptoms, they should be taken to a doctor immediately.

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