DEL MAR, Calif. (WAFB) - After a toddler died and three other pediatric cases of Shiga-toxin-producing E. Coli (STEC) exposure were linked to a petting zoo at the San Diego County Fair, health officials from the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) are reminding parents nationwide of warning signs and symptoms associated with the disease.
The bacteria can be transmitted through contaminated water or food and sometimes through contact with other people and animals. Most people with a STEC infection start feeling sick 3 to 4 days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria. However, illnesses can start anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure.
Though symptoms vary from person to person, the most commonly identified symptoms include:
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Watery or bloody diarrhea (3 or more loose stools in a 24 hour period)
STEC symptoms can occur with or without a fever. When present, the fever usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/38.5˚C), according to HHSA. Most people get better within 5 to 7 days and some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening. That is especially true for young children, older individuals, pregnant women, newborns, and people with weakened immune systems.
“While most people recover from this illness without complications, 5 to 10 percent of people diagnosed with STEC develop the life-threatening kidney infection,” said Wilma J. Wooten, a public health officer with HHSA.
CBS affiliate KFMB reported that among the confirmed cases in California were the following:
- A 13-year-old girl who attended the fair on June 8th and started showing symptoms on June 10th.
- An 11-year-old girl who attended the fair twice, once on June 8th and again on June 12th. She started showing symptoms on June 12th
- A 9-year-old boy who attended the fair on June 13th and started showing symptoms on June 16th.
- A 2-year-old boy who ultimately died due to complications associated with the disease. He attended the fair on June 15th, started showing symptoms on June 19th and tragically passed away on June 24th.
The Centers for Disease Control says an estimated 265,000 STEC infections occur each year in the United States. Should you or a loved one have diarrhea that lasts for more than 3 days accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine, the CDC it’s important to contact a healthcare provider and be tested.
To combat STEC, remember the following tips:
- Practice thorough hand washing, including after changing diapers, after using the toilet, and before preparing food
- Wash fruits and vegetables before consuming
- Cook meat thoroughly and avoiding cross-contamination in food preparation areas