An E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to Oak Leaf Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut has now sickened 34 people, according to the State Department of Public Health (DPH). Officials are advising anyone who recently purchased goats from Oak Leaf Farm to consult with their livestock veterinarian.
The patients, who range in age from 10 months to 45 years old, have a median age of five. Twenty eight of those sickened are children 14 years old and under; 18 of them are five and under.
Nine people required hospitalization. Five have been treated and released. Three of the four who remain hospitalized have been diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a complication of E. coli infections that most often affects children under 10, causes kidney failure, seizure, stroke, coma and death.
“E.coli can hit children particularly hard,” said Elliot Olsen, an attorney with the national food safety law firm PritzkerOlsen who is representing two children sickened with HUS in another outbreak. PritzkerOlsen underwrites Food Poisoning Bulletin.
E. coli symptoms usually develop within two to five days of exposure but can appear within 24 hours or take as long as 10 days to develop. They include stomach cramps and diarrhea, that is sometimes bloody. Sometimes these symptoms, which last about a week, are accompanied by a low-grade fever.
About 15 percent of children with E. coli infections will develop HUS, which causes blood cells to become misshapen and to die prematurely, clogging the kidneys. Kidney failure, heart attack, seizure and stroke are all possible complications of HUS. Children under 10 are at most at risk for HUS because their immune systems have not fully developed. For about 12 percent of children, HUS is fatal.
Three of the patients in this outbreak did not visit Oak Leaf Farm but had contact with someone who did, according to DPH. Because of these secondary cases, DPH advises those with a family member infected with E. coli to follow these precautions: Wash hands thoroughly after visiting the restroom or changing a child’s diaper, wash hands before and after food preparation, and stay home form work or school while diarrhea persists.
The investigation by DPH, the Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is ongoing and expected to last several weeks. Oak Leaf Farm remains closed to the public and its owners are cooperating with the investigation, according to DP.