Health Department Determined Likely Source of E. Coli Outbreak

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has been working diligently with numerous state, local and federal agencies to investigate the source of E. coli outbreak that took place in the Hildale and Colorado City communities, beginning in the latter part of June, that claimed the lives of 2 young children and sickened several others. They have determined the likely source of the outbreak after extensive tests of potential sources of contamination and interviews with locals.

ecoli-cellThe type of E. coli responsible for the outbreak is called E.coli O157:H7. E. coli is a large group of bacteria with most strains posing no serious health risk. The 0157 strain is the most common form of the dangerous strains in North America and is considered the likely culprit whenever a dangerous outbreak occurs. The symptoms of infection usually begin 3-4 days after exposure to the bacteria and can include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), and vomiting. Some people who contract this strain may develop a life-threatening complication called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which can ultimately cause kidney failure. Although HUS can affect people of any age, it is more common in children younger than 5 years old and older adults. This condition is known to develop in around 5-10% of individuals that contract the 0157 strain of E. coli. According to the CDC, signs of HUS can include, decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. Any suspicion of infection should be brought to the attention of a medical professional for proper evaluation, monitoring, and treatment.

According to an update from the SWUPHD on 7-28-17, “The investigation of the E. coli outbreak in the Hildale/Colorado City area is drawing to a close. It has been determined that the likely source of the disease was infected animals, followed by person to person contact. Several livestock tested positive for the E. coli strain involved in this outbreak. Their owners have been contacted and given guidance to prevent further spread. Tests on water systems, springs, ground beef, produce, and dairy products were negative.” While many cases of E. coli tend to be foodborne, it is important to be aware of the potential for contamination from other sources. They recommend the following actions and considerations going forward:

  • Keep sick animals separated from people and consider consulting a veterinarian
  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water
    • After contact with animals or exposure to animal feces
    • Before and after preparing or eating food
    • After using the bathroom and changing diapers
    • Before touching anything that enters an infant’s mouth
  • Wash produce thoroughly
  • Keep raw food separate from cooked food
  • Carefully clean all surfaces and objects that have touched raw meat
  • Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees (use a meat thermometer)

For more information about E. coli and preventing infection, visit:

cdc.gov/ecoli/general

cdc.gov/handwashing

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