ST. GEORGE — A breakout of E.coli, a potentially deadly strain of bacteria, was revealed Saturday to have affected some residents of Hildale.
The outbreak is limited to the handful of people already affected, and health officials do not believe the infection poses a risk to others.
“We really feel that the community as a whole there is at low or no risk at this time,” David Heaton, Southwest Utah Public Health Department public information officer, said in an interview with St. George News.
Investigators are currently focusing on contaminated food or exposure to animals as potential causes of the infection.
“There was some question about the safety of the water there,” Heaton said. “That is one way E.coli can be transmitted. All our tests so far have shown that the water is clean.”
As the investigation is still ongoing, officials have not released information about how many people have been affected or the status of patients already infected.
E.coli are bacteria found in the environment, foods and intestines of people and animals.
While the bacteria are usually harmless, some strains can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, bloodstream infections and other illnesses. Children under 5 and older adults are more likely to develop serious illness, but anyone can be affected.
The disease-causing bacteria typically spread when particles of human or animal feces are exposed to the mouth. The particles usually come from unwashed hands, contaminated water or unpasteurized foods or livestock.
Symptoms vary but often include stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever usually less than 101 degrees. Most people get better within five-seven days. Infections range from mild to serious.
A health care provider should be contacted if diarrhea lasts more than three days or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, low urine amounts or vomiting to the point that liquid can’t be kept down.
“The main thing really is to be scrupulous about hand washing and proper food preparation and storage,” Heaton said.
The Southwest Utah Public Health Department advises the following in preventing E.coli infection:
- Wash hands before preparing or eating food.
- Wash hands before preparing or touching anything that enters an infant’s mouth.
- Thorough handwashing after preparing or eating food, using the bathroom and changing diapers and contact with animals or their environments.
- Use hand-sanitizer if soap and water is not available.
- Cook meats thoroughly and don’t allow raw meat to contact other food.
- Avoid raw milk and unpasteurized dairy products/juices.
- Don’t swallow water when swimming.
More information can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s E.coli information website.
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