E. Coli Outbreak in Galena Elementary Started with One Student

An <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/e_coli_O157_H7">E. coli outbreak last fall  that affected students at a Floyd County, Indiana elementary school resulted in 15 confirmed or probable E. coli cases and likely originated from one child who had environmental contact—as opposed to ingesting the bacteria in food—with a cow or goat.  The findings were part of a report by the Indiana State Department of Health expected to be released in the couple of weeks according to Dr. Tom Harris, Floyd County’s health officer. Harris said he reviewed the report last week as it was being completed.

According to the report, one Galena Elementary School student—and it remains unclear which student was the originating victim—inadvertently brought the infection into the school, perhaps after contact with a cow or goat. Some animals, such as cows and goats, carry E. coli without suffering from the infection.  The bacteria was then spread by contact either in the school or with siblings of infected students.  Harris said the mother of a student who attended a play group with infected students was confirmed to have the illness and one other adult was considered a probable case, adding that 10 cases confirmed by bacterial culture were of children attending Galena or siblings of Galena students.  Because all the children were sickened by the same E. coli strain, the infection originated from the same source.

Three other children were confirmed to have been infected by E. coli and suffered the type of kidney damage caused by the bacteria, Harris said. An unusual aspect of the Floyd outbreak was that about half those confirmed to have the illness had kidney damage as a result of the infection, an unusually high percentage. Harris said all the students who fell ill have returned to school; however, some are being monitored by their doctors because of kidney problems, which may be necessary for a long time for some of them.  The cluster of Floyd cases began in September when four Galena students were initially diagnosed.

Meanwhile, U.S. food safety officials say the potential for dangerous E. coli bacteria is on the rise.  Since 2006, when an E. coli outbreak in swept the nation, other outbreaks of the bacteria have become more varied.  In the last two years, a variety of pathogens in food have killed at least three people, sickened over 1,300 others, and touched nearly every state in the country as well as Canada.  And, antibiotic resistance is so pervasive that scientists now report having found evidence of drug-repelling E. coli adding credence to the notion of antibiotic resistance.

In addition to the spread of E. coli and the growing resistance of the infection to traditional medications, it seems that there is emerging data that the negative health effects of E. coli can remain for months and years later.  It was once believed that once we recover from a food-related contamination that we are healed and the illness is gone.  Not so.  According to recent research, these illnesses can have long-term, lasting effects that either linger for or recur months or years after the original illness.

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