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State Public Health investigation continues into E coli outbreak

For release: Immediate    October 27, 2011
Contact: Julie Henry (919) 855-4840

RALEIGH – State Public Health officials have reported that as of 3 pm, October 27th, 21 cases of E coli have been reported, with 8 confirmed and 13 cases still being evaluated. All reported cases either reside or traveled to Wake County 10 days prior to becoming ill.

According to State Epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies, cases have been reported from Durham, Wake, Johnston, Franklin, Cleveland and Sampson counties.

“There does not appear to be any reason to be concerned about ongoing exposure to the source of this outbreak,” Davies said. “However, we are working vigorously with local health departments and health care providers across the state to find additional cases if they exist.”

Four of the 21 cases are still hospitalized, and all those hospitalized are children, she added.

The initial investigation was undertaken by Wake County Health and Human Services, Wake County Environmental Services, and by the North Carolina Division of Public Health. Other Local Health Departments are joining this investigation if cases are reported to them. Investigators are examining events, foods or activities that may be common to all cases. State and Wake County Health officials stressed that the investigation is ongoing.

“We are working with county health departments, hospitals and clinics across the state to identify any additional cases,” Davies said. “Once a case is identified, disease investigators then work to determine whether the case is related to this outbreak and, if so, what common link there may be as to the source. Our focus at this time is to conduct a case control study and to genetically fingerprint this strain so as to determine cases that are related to the same source.”

E. coli can be spread from person to person; however, it can be prevented through frequent hand washing, especially before eating or preparing food, and after using the bathroom. The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/less than 38.5˚C). Most people get better within five to seven days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.

Public Health officials urge the public to consult with their physician or contact their local health department if they exhibit any symptoms or questions related to E coli.

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