Deadly E. coli outbreak in North Carolina extends south

The outbreak of E. coli virus linked to a county fair in North Carolina has claimed the life of one toddler in the state and now includes victims in South Carolina, too, as more are identified.

According to a recent update from the North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services, more victims of an E. coli outbreak have been identified in recent days. The total number now stands at 38, up from 21 just a few days ago. That total also includes one death, a toddler who died last Friday. Also, two South Carolina residents join the 36 others from North Carolina.

All the victims of this outbreak attended the recent Cleveland County Fair near Shelby, N.C. The fair was held between Sept. 27 and Oct. 7. 

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the family,” DHHS Secretary Al Delia said in a statement released to the press this week. “Losing a child is a devastating thing for a family to endure and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”

No specific source of the outbreak has been identified but health officials investigating the outbreak know that the Cleveland County Fair is the common string through all the victims. It is not known if all the victims identified so far in the outbreak attended the fair on the same day or whether they all ate at one specific food stand or did any other activities there in common. The bacteria can be spread through food or through contaminated animals. People coming into contact with a contaminated animal, a likely scenario at a county fair setting, could easily acquire the virus.

Mostly, E. coli poisoning can be treated without the need for professional care in most instances but some people infected with the pathogen may develop more severe symptoms and require hospitalization for treatment. Symptoms of E. coli poisoning include headache, dizziness, diarrhea, and vomiting. If more serious symptoms persist, an E. coli poisoning can develop into the life-threatening condition hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is often marked by kidney failure and seizures.

North Carolina’s Health Director added in the same update, ““With fairs and festival season underway, we would be remiss not to remind people of the importance of hand washing as a way to prevent the spread of this and other illnesses.”

Health officials continue to investigate potential cases of E. coli poisoning that may be related to this outbreak.

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