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For Release: Immediate
Date: October 11, 2012
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services confirmed this morning that a Gaston County child has died from complications of E. coli infection as part of an outbreak in people who attended the Cleveland County Fair.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the family,” DHHS Secretary Al Delia said. “Losing a child is a devastating thing for a family to endure and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”
As of Friday, the Division of Public Health is working with local health officials in Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln counties to investigate 15 cases related to the outbreak.
“This is a tragic reminder of the seriousness of this kind of infection, especially in young children,” State Health Director Laura Gerald said. “We want to remind anyone who is experiencing symptoms of E. coli infection who visited the Cleveland County Fair to see their doctor or healthcare provider right away.”
Symptoms of E. coli infection could occur as late as 10 days after exposure and may include:
diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, which may be accompanied by abdominal cramps
sometimes low-grade fever
Some people sickened by E. coli O157:H7 (5-10%) may develop severe complications, including kidney failure or hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Young children, the elderly and people with other medical conditions are particularly at risk. Untreated, HUS can lead to death, so it is essential that people with E. coli receive prompt medical treatment to minimize their chances of contracting HUS.
Public health investigators have not yet determined a specific source of the outbreak, but confirm that the Cleveland County Fair is the common link between all cases. E. coli are bacteria found in the feces of animals such as cattle, sheep and goats. If people touch contaminated material, food or animals, they can transfer the bacteria from their hands to their mouths, or to others. E. coli outbreaks have also been associated with food products.
“With fairs and festival season underway, we would be remiss not to remind people of the importance of hand washing as a way to prevent the spread of this and other illnesses,” Gerald said.
For more information on E. coli and for regular updates on this investigation, visit http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/ecoli.html
For more information on handwashing, see http://www.nasphv.org/Documents/HandwashingPoster.pdf
As of Sunday, October 14 at 2 pm
21 cases; 20 from NC 1 from SC
Number includes 1 death
7 adults, 14 children
Cleveland Co 10
Gaston Co 5
Lincoln Co 5
York County SC 1
No more updates until Monday