E. coli cases on the rise in Utah, health officials search for cause

E. coli bacteria | Photo by Dr. Microbe, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Utah public health officials are investigating an increase in Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections across the state, and while the source of the infections has not been identified, several infected individuals reported visiting petting zoos, corn mazes and farms.

Since Oct. 1, there have been 20 cases of the toxin-producing E. coli infections reported statewide, primarily along the Wasatch Front and in the central and southwest regions, according to a statement released Thursday by the Utah Department of Health.

The ages of those infected range from 10 months to 71-years-old, and 11 of the cases involved children under the age of 18.

No deaths have been reported, and six have been hospitalized, while the agency is working with local health departments to determine the source of the infection.

“This increase in October is higher than normally expected,” the statement said.

E. coli

E. coli is a bacteria spread by consuming contaminated food or water, unpasteurized milk, contact with cattle or contact with the feces of infected people, and those visiting petting zoos and areas where cattle have been are at greater risk of contracting the virus, especially if they are not practicing good hand hygiene.

Symptoms usually appear three to four days after exposure and can vary, but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, and vomiting.

Most cases improve within five to seven days, but some infections are severe or even life-threatening, and a potentially life-threatening complication of E. coli infection can include hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

Very young children and the elderly are more likely to develop severe illness and kidney failure than others, but even healthy, older children and young adults can become seriously ill.

E. coli is common bacteria that can be spread when tiny pieces of feces enter an individual’s mouth via unwashed hands, contaminated soil, water and food.

Undercooked ground beef and unpasteurized dairy products are especially high risk. Infected animals and manure are also sources of infection. Most types of E. coli are harmless, but some strains are harmful to humans, such as the strain found in this outbreak.

Health officials encourage the following practices to help prevent infection from E. coli and other diseases, health officials recommend that individuals wash their 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; and after touching or being around animals or places where animal feces may be present, including farms, petting zoos, fairs, corn mazes or even backyards.

Other protective measures include:

  • Stay home from school or work if experiencing diarrhea.
  • Most can return to work once the bout is over, but special precautions are necessary for food handlers, health care workers and child care providers. Check with your employer before returning to work, and check with your child’s child care center before resuming child care.
  • Follow the four steps to food safety when preparing food: clean, separate, cook and chill.
  • Avoid raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products and juices such as fresh apple cider.
  • Don’t swallow water when swimming and when playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, backyard “kiddie” pools and splash parks.

Contact your health care provider if you have diarrhea that lasts for more than three days or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine. There is no evidence that treatment with antibiotics is helpful and it may increase the risk of complications.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • KR567 October 26, 2018 at 11:37 am

    LOL …..you’re here reading the news

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