Wood County in Ohio is experiencing an increase in E. coli cases.
The Wood County Health Department reports that three years of E. coli cases have occurred in the past week alone.
Health Commissioner Ben Robison told the Wood County Board of Health Thursday that 16 known cases of E. coli have been identified in the past week. In the last five and a half years, the county has recorded 27 cases of E. coli.
The health commissioner said: “We are in the early stages of an investigation.”
The Ohio Department of Health is testing to see if there is a link between the cases, which affected Wood County residents between the ages of 13 and 60. The test results will be back on Tuesday.
The 15 known cases are likely just the beginning, according to Robison. “This number we expect to grow,” he said.
The health department is asking anyone in the county who believes they have or have recently experienced possible symptoms of E coli to go to https://woodcountyhealth.org/health-promotion-and-preparedness/infectious-disease/ and click on the blue “take this survey” link.
Of the 16 cases reported so far, at least five people, ranging in age from 21 to 60, have been hospitalized.
Wood County Health is collaborating with other agencies to try and solve the mystery of the origin of E. coli. These partners include the Ohio Department of Health and other county health departments. It can be extended to the Ohio Department of Agriculture if a link to food products in the early stages of growth or processing is identified.
Robison explained that people sometimes believe that the last place or food item they ate is the culprit when it comes to gastrointestinal issues. But the first symptoms of E. coli may not appear until 10 days after they ate the contaminated food, he said.
A board of health member reported Thursday that a relative became very ill and had to be hospitalized after eating at the Wood County Fair. But Robison noted that the food court center may not have been the problem.
Robison hopes the lab results from ODH will provide vital information – such as if E. coli is the same strain.
“We are moving quickly, but deliberately,” he said.
Board member Bob Midden asked if there had been any alerts about contaminated national or regional produce or other foods. Robison said the health department will look “in every direction” for the culprit.
“We’re not going to close any doors,” Robison said.
E. coli are bacteria found in the environment, food and intestines of humans and animals. E. coli are a large and diverse group of bacteria, according to the CDC.
About E. coli infections
Anyone who has eaten any of the products involved and has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about possible food poisoning. Specific tests are required to diagnose infections, which can mimic other diseases.
Symptoms of E. coli infections vary from person to person, but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others may develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening complication of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, unexplained minor bruising or bleeding, and paleness.
Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injury or death. This condition can occur among people of any age, but is more common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of weakened immune systems, and people with compromised immune system such as cancer patients.
People experiencing symptoms of HUS should seek emergency medical attention immediately. People with HUS are likely to be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurological problems.
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