E coli – United States

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7 cases in the United States of toxic E. coli (STEC) infections during a two period in Kings County, Washington between April 22 and May 1.

All cases developed symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and one developed a serious kidney complication. The source of the infection is unknown.

All 7 cases consist of children under 14 and six of them had to be hospitalized.

Washington State Public Health Laboratories are testing and performing genetic sequencing to confirm the strain. Health officials said that parents should contact their healthcare provider if their child develops serious symptoms. Some strains of E. coli are harmful. Shigatoxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC) and verotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC) are strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli that produce either Shiga toxin or Shiga-like toxin (verotoxin). Only a minority of the strains cause illness in humans. These are collectively known as enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC).

They are a major cause of foodborne-illness. When infecting humans, they often cause gastroenteritis, enterocolitis, bloody diarrhea, and sometimes cause a severe complication called hemolytic-uremic syndrome.

After eating contaminated food, the first symptoms of infection can emerge anywhere from 1 to 10 days later, but usually after 3 to 4 days. These early symptoms can include diarrhea (which is often bloody), stomach cramps, mild fever, or vomiting that results in dehydration and reduced urine. Hemolytic uremic syndrome typically develops about 5 to 10 days after the first symptoms, but can take up to 3 weeks to manifest, and occurs at a time when the diarrhea is improving.

The country with the highest incidence of hemolytic-uremic syndrome is Argentina. But it can occur in frequently large outbreaks in any country.

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