Health Dept. investigating 3 E.coli infections in King Co. children

SEATTLE — Public Health is investigating three E. coli infections among young children in King County.

Public Health - Seattle & King County said it received the first report of illness on May 26, the second report on June 1 and the third on June 6.

All the children, who are under 5 years old, developed symptoms including diarrhea that became bloody and abdominal cramps.

Two children have been hospitalized with complications. The third child is recovering at home.

Health officials say the infections were caused by Shiga-toxin producing E. coli , which is also called STEC.

Testing is in progress to determine if the three children have the same strain of STEC and whether the cases may be linked to a common source or if they are unrelated.

Public Health says STEC and other foodborne infections occur year round but may increase during the summer months. If you or your child develop new painful or bloody diarrhea, contact your healthcare provider to see if testing for STEC is needed.

Public Health provided the following information about STEC:

E. coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of humans and animals. Many strains of E. coli bacteria exist, and most of them are harmless or beneficial to human health. STEC are strains of E. coli that produce Shiga toxin (such as E. coli O157:H7) and can cause serious illness in people.

Infection with STEC can occur through consumption of undercooked ground beef and other beef products; unpasteurized (raw) milk, cheese, and juice; contaminated raw fruits, vegetables, sprouts and herbs; water contaminated with animal feces, or by direct contact with farm animals or their environment. Ready-to-eat foods can also be contaminated with STEC through contact with raw beef or raw beef juices in the kitchen.

Symptoms of STECinclude diarrhea (which often becomes bloody) and stomach cramps, with mild or no fever.  Illness typically lasts several days and people can spread infection to others even after symptoms resolve.

To prevent STEC infection:

  • Avoid eating high-risk foods, especially undercooked ground beef and other beef products, unpasteurized (raw) milk or juice or cheese, and raw sprouts.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure that ground beef has reached a safe internal temperature of 160° F.
  • Wash hands before preparing food, after diapering infants, and after contact with cows, sheep, or goats, their food or treats, or their living environment.
  • Thoroughly wash fresh produce before eating.

For more information about STEC, see:

             E. coli facts, Foodsafety.gov