August 14, 2014
Health officials complete investigation of E. coli infections
No source identified; awareness, precautions urged to prevent infections
Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) epidemiologists have completed their investigation into the E. coli bacterial infections that seriously sickened two Wright County siblings but were not able to identify a specific source.
The infections caused hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious form of kidney failure, in the children. This severe complication resulted in the death of one of the children; the other is recovering at home. The children were sickened with a strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, or STEC, known as STEC O145, as well as an undetermined type of STEC.
Disease investigators considered all known potential sources of E. coli, including typical sources, which can include foods such as ground beef, leafy greens and raw milk; swimming; person-to-person transmission in families or daycares; and farm animal contact, such as at fairs or petting zoos.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to identify the source of the children’s infections,” said MDH State Public Health Veterinarian Joni Scheftel. “In particular, we did not find a connection with a petting zoo that the children visited, despite extensive testing of the animals.” To date there have been no additional cases of people infected with the same strains of E. coli. “However, we will continue to monitor for cases that may help establish a link and/or source,” Scheftel said.
Health officials said it’s important to be aware that germs like Shiga toxin-producing E. coli can be found in food and animals, even healthy ones. They urged people to continue everyday precautions to help prevent infections. Cook meats to proper temperatures and check doneness with a meat thermometer, avoid contaminating ready-to-eat foods with the juices from raw meat, wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating them, wash your hands after using the bathroom, before you eat and after being in contact with animals or their environment.