Public Health Officials Investigating wave of E. coli cases


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

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Boulder, CO - Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) is currently investigating a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 infections associated with students attending the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU). Since September 23rd, BCPH has investigated eight related cases.


Initial investigations indicate that on-campus dining is not related to the illness. BCPH staff is working closely with CU and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to identify the source of the outbreak and any additional cases among students and the public.


“Our number one priority is to protect the public’s health by identifying the source of this outbreak. Therefore, we are asking anyone who has had symptoms of diarrhea, specifically bloody diarrhea, since September 20th to contact their healthcare provider or BCPH,” said Nisha Alden, BCPH epidemiologist.


E. coli infection is a diarrheal illness caused by several types of E. coli bacteria. It is spread most easily when people eat or drink food or water contaminated with human or animal feces or from infected symptomatic individuals. E. coli is not spread through the air by coughing or sneezing.


Symptoms of E. coli infection include sudden onset of watery diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal cramping, and occasionally vomiting. About one-third of affected people develop fevers. The disease is generally mild in adults, but it can be severe and debilitating in the very young and the elderly. Infections with E. coli 0157:H7 generally last 5-10 days. Anybody with watery and/or bloody diarrhea should be seen by his or her health care provider as soon as possible.


E. coli 0157:H7 infections are generally not treated with antibiotics because antibiotics can increase the risk of more severe symptoms, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), resulting in acute kidney failure.


“Hand washing is important, especially after using the bathroom,” said Pamela Talley, CU Wardenburg Health Center physician. “People with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or any other stomach ailment should drink plenty of water or other liquids with electrolytes and should not prepare food for others.”


In order to prevent E. coli it is also important to thoroughly cook meat and poultry, wash utensils and work surfaces after contact with raw meat, wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly, and avoid unpasteurized juices and milk products.


If anyone has experienced these symptoms or would like more information, they should call their healthcare provider or the BCPH Communicable Disease Control Program at 303-413-7500 during normal working hours.



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