E. Coli cases confirmed in Watauga County

By Scott Nicholson

Source of Article:  http://www.wataugademocrat.com/2009/0119/0123e_coli.php

Appalachian District Health Department reported on Friday six recent cases of food-borne illness in Watauga County, and three cases of E. coli have been confirmed this month.

Currently, an investigation is underway to determine the source of the illness to guide the work of the Appalachian District Epidemiology Team in determining the exact cause of this food borne illness.

"These are recent cases that are still under investigation," said Debbie Garrett, nursing supervisor at the Watauga County Health Department.

"We try to track to a common place, get a seven-day food history, where they buy groceries, whether they had exposure to large bodies of water, if there are pets in home and health of pets, or whether they are on a farm. There are a lot of different means of exposure.

"We typically see two or three cases a year," "It's a little bit unusual to have several cases at once like this."

Common symptoms of E. coli illness include abdominal cramps and diarrhea that is often with bloody stools.

Although most healthy adults can recover without any long- term health problems, some people can develop a form of kidney failure. This is most likely to occur in young children and older adults. The condition can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.

"It can be severe," Garrett said. "All of these people are well."

People are strongly advised to report to their healthcare provider if they are sick. This is especially important for those working in food-service positions and those that have close contact with children, older adults, or those with a compromised immune system.

Garrett said it can be difficult to differentiate between some influenza symptoms and E. coli contamination, which is why testing is important.

For more information, contact the health department at (828) 264-4995.



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