Elk droppings likely source of kids' E. coli

By Ann Schrader
The Denver Post

Article Last Updated: 11/07/2008 11:10:10 PM MST

Source of Article: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_10931770

Elk droppings in the Evergreen area contain the same strain of E. coli bacteria that sickened eight children in three mountain counties, state health officials reported Friday.

State lab testing confirmed the match of the bacteria. Health officials suspected elk droppings as a potential source of the exposure.

"Today's lab results tell us it is very likely the children acquired the E. coli infection" from the droppings, said Alicia Cronquist, state health epidemiologist.

It's not known how the elk were infected.

"This is a highly unusual situation, and public health officials are continuing to investigate how the elk in the area may have been exposed," said Gayle Miller, senior epidemiologist with the Jefferson County Department of Health and Environment.

Miller said people need to take precautions such as thoroughly washing hands with soap and water after playing outdoors, and before touching food or eating.

Miller said most of the sickened children were exposed to the elk droppings during outdoor recreation at local athletic fields, parks and homes.

The investigation into the outbreak will continue, including phone surveys of some Evergreen-area residents. School and parks and recreation officials have been notified of the results.

Cases began appearing in July, with the last reported Oct. 22.

The children, ages 4 to 12, do not attend the same school, though all live in or have visited the Evergreen area.

Six children live in Jefferson County, with the two others living in Clear Creek and Park counties.

Two of the children were hospitalized with E. coli complications. They have been released and are at home, health officials said.

The bacteria strain 0157:H7 has been linked to undercooked hamburger contaminated with cattle feces and to contaminated fruits and vegetables.

E. coli 0157:H7 can cause bloody diarrhea and intense abdominal cramps, with children and elderly people being vulnerable to complications.



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