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E. Coli outbreak 'under control'

SLAYTON -- It appears an E. coli outbreak at Wonder World Preschool has passed, according to director Diane Scarset.

The first confirmed cases of E. coli came in mid-May, and the last case was confirmed June 6, with no additional cases reported since. This leads Scarset to believe there's no further danger.

"It has been a while," she explained. "I think we're on the mend."

"Yes, it does look like, without new cases, the spread of it is under control," agreed Chris Gilb, Director of Nursing for Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone Public Health Services (LLMP PHS). "Probably through steps they've been taking to clean, and watching kids carefully for symptoms."

More than 20 of the children at the day care showed symptoms of the infection, but Scarset said only eight of those were confirmed as positive.

Kirk Smith, supervisor of the food-borne diseases unit with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), said there were 12 lab-confirmed cases from the day care center, and the testing of the staff has just begun.

"It is possible we will find another person or two infected," he said, "but it looks like things are really slowing down."

One child was hospitalized with symptoms consistent with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), an infection that destroys red blood cells and can lead to kidney failure. Approximately 2 to 7 percent of E. coli 0157:H7 cases lead to HUS.

"When you get this, you have dialysis and maybe transfusions to clean the blood," Smith said. "It is necessary to treat HUS."

To get the outbreak under control, certain measures were taken. Anyone who displayed symptoms, which include diarrhea, cramps or low fever, were not allowed back until healthy.

"We cleaned the carpets, disinfected everything," Scarset said. "We do that every day anyway, but the solutions are stronger now."

The best way to combat the E. coli, according to Gilb, is to go in and "clean, clean, clean."

"Our staff went in and did an inspection, helping the staff with the sanitizing fluids," she added. "The day care is very careful anyway, and just put in a few extra efforts. The day care did a wonderful job."

E. coli is passed through a fecal oral route, so hand washing is extremely important. Gilb said washing hands after handling raw meat is also important.

Everyone involved in the center -- both children and staff -- were tested. The center is licensed for 72 children, with a current registration of 69.

"We will continue to test until everything has come back clean," Gilb reported. "But it does look like everything is under control."

Scarset said the MDH had not yet found the exact cause of the outbreak.

"They can't say for sure, but they believe it was brought into the center by a child," she added.

Gilb said it is possible the cause will never be located.

"Sometimes you can't find one," she stated.

Symptoms of E. coli usually begin two to five days after infection, and the illness resolves in five to 10 days, according to the MDH Web site.

Treatment is just a matter of letting the infection run its course.

"There is no medicine for it," Smith said. "Antibiotics are not helpful and may in fact be harmful."

If a person with E. coli becomes dehydrated or the infection develops into HUS, hospitalization for managements may be necessary.