ST. GEORGE — Health officials are still looking for the source of an outbreak of E. coli infections among residents of Hildale that now stands at 12 confirmed cases. An online survey has been issued to area residents to seek out any more possible cases.
Among the confirmed cases, two children were infected and died in late June. Most of the other confirmed cases are also children, caused by a strain of the bacterial infection known to cause kidney failure.
The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has been working with officials from Utah, Arizona and the Center for Disease Control to interview all of the cases so far reported by doctors and the community.
While the source of the outbreak is still unknown, it is not likely to have come from ground beef, David Heaton, Southwest Utah Public Health Department public information officer, told St. George News Monday. He added that water testing has consistently come back clean.
In an effort to discover any additional cases of the disease that may not have been detected because the patient did not seek medical care, the health department has posted an online survey aimed at residents of Hildale, Colorado City and Centennial Park in the Arizona area.
The survey asks whether the person or anyone in their household has had diarrhea since June 1 and further specifies whether it was bloody, a sign of E. coli infection.
If symptoms are present, the survey asks for contact information and whether the survey taker sought medical care.
The three-minute survey can be taken at Research.net.
E.coli are bacteria found in the environment, foods and intestines of people and animals.
While the bacteria are usually harmless, some strains can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, bloodstream infections and other illnesses. Children under 5 and older adults are more likely to develop serious illness, but anyone can be affected.
The disease-causing bacteria typically spread when particles of human or animal feces are exposed to the mouth. The particles usually come from unwashed hands, contaminated water or unpasteurized foods or livestock.
Symptoms vary but often include stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever usually less than 101 degrees. Most people get better within five to seven days. Infections range from mild to serious.
A health care provider should be contacted if diarrhea lasts more than three days or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, low urine amounts or vomiting to the point that liquid can’t be kept down.
“The main thing really is to be scrupulous about hand washing and proper food preparation and storage,” Heaton said.
The Southwest Utah Public Health Department advises the following in preventing E.coli infection:
- Wash hands before preparing or eating food.
- Wash hands before preparing or touching anything that enters an infant’s mouth.
- Conduct thorough handwashing after preparing or eating food, using the bathroom and changing diapers and having contacting with animals or their environments.
- Use hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available.
- Cook meats thoroughly and don’t allow raw meat to contact other food.
- Avoid raw milk and unpasteurized dairy products or juices.
- Don’t swallow water when swimming.
More information can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s E.coli information website.
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