For Immediate Release
October 13, 2008

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

KDHE, Local Health Departments Respond to E. coli Cases

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is working with local health departments to identify possible sources of E. coli infection. Two children, one in Seward County and the other in Chase County, have died from the disease within the past several days. The deaths are unrelated and were caused by different E. coli serotypes.

E. coli are common bacteria that live in the intestines of animals and people. However, some kinds can cause serious illnesses in people. Among these are kinds that produce potent toxins, known as shiga toxins, and can cause severe bloody diarrhea. Approximately 8 percent of persons infected with the most common shiga toxin-producing serotype, E. coli O151:H7, progress to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication.

KDHE recommends the following steps to reduce the risk of exposure to E. coli:

WASH YOUR HANDS thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food. WASH YOUR HANDS after contact with animals or their environments (at farms, petting zoos, fairs, even your own backyard).
 

COOK meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F/70°C. It's best to use a thermometer, as color is not a very reliable indicator of "doneness."
 

AVOID raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).
 

AVOID swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard "kiddie" pools.
 

PREVENT cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.

E. coli can also be spread to playmates by toddlers who are not toilet trained or by adults who do not wash their hands carefully after changing diapers. Children can pass the bacteria in their stool to another person for two weeks after they have gotten well from an E. coli O157:H7 illness.

The incubation period (the time between when a person is exposed to E. coli bacteria until when they develop symptoms) may range from 1-10 days, and symptoms usually lasts for 3-4 days. Bloody diarrhea and stomach pain are the most common signs of E. coli O157:H7 sickness.

People usually do not have a fever, or may have only a slight fever. Some people, especially children under 5 and the elderly, can become very sick from E. coli O157:H7. Anyone who suddenly has diarrhea with blood in it should call or see a doctor.

Fifty-two cases of E-coli were reported to KDHE in 2007; 33 of these were caused by E-coli O157:H7. Kansas' three-year median for 2004-2006 was 48 cases. The highest rate of disease (8.8 per 100,000) was reported among children aged less than five years.