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E. Coli Sickens Two North County Children

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October 29, 2008

Two North County children have been sickened by E. Coli infection, and County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) is working with the County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) to try to locate the source.

The girls, ages seven and nine, have been hospitalized and are expected to recover.

Although the source of the infection has yet to be determined, officials at Carmel Creek Elementary School, where the girls attend, have notified parents as a precaution.

“The school has not been named as the source, but we appreciate their cooperation during this investigation,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer. “We emphasize to the public that it is critical to practice appropriate food safety habits and good hand hygiene to prevent infectious diseases like E. Coli from spreading.”

“The safety of our children is extremely important to us, and we keep parents informed about issues that may affect them and their children,” said Leslie Fausset, superintendent, Solana Beach Elementary School District.

E. Coli can be attributed to many sources, including lettuce, raw milk, un-pasteurized apple cider, or from petting zoos and animal exhibits. Undercooked hamburger is another possible source.

“Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills the bacteria,” said Gary Erbeck, Director, DEH. “The only sure way to tell if you have reached that temperature is to use a food thermometer. “

E. coli infection often causes abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea. There is usually little or no fever, and the illness typically resolves itself in five to 10 days. A small percentage of infected individuals may also develop a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed and kidney failure may occur. Those most at risk for serious complications of this food-borne illness include young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Consumers should seek immediate medical care if they develop these symptoms.

“Considering the serious health threat E. Coli poses to this age group, I am pleased our County health officials have mechanisms in place to help prevent further spread of the illness,” said Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, who represents Solana Beach.

For more information on E. Coli, contact HHSA Community Epidemiology Branch at (619) 515-6620.

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