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E. coli Outbreak Won't Close Illinois Day Care Center

Feb 27, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Despite an outbreak of 22 E. coli illnesses there, a KinderCare Learning Center is not being forced to close its Lemont, Illinois  location, reports Chicago Breaking News.

The Cook County Health Department made the decision not close the contaminated KinderCare Learning Center, according to a department spokeswoman.  The outbreak has sickened 21 children and one adult care provider.  Health department spokeswoman, Amy Poore, said that closing the KinderCare Learning Center will force children not presenting with symptoms to go to other child care centers, thus potentially spreading the dangerous, sometimes deadly, E. coli germ, according to Chicago Breaking News.

Although the KinderCare Center is not closing down during the outbreak, Poore said it is required to undergo strict cleaning protocols, and all children and adults at the facility must be tested for E. coli infection, testing with two negative results within 24 hours, said Chicago Beaking News.  "Everyone who tests positive will be excluded," Poore told the paper, adding, "Right now, our focus is on containing it and controlling it."

The KinderCare Center opened in 2000 and serves 120 children who range in age from six weeks to 12 years of age.  Officials there reported the outbreak to the health department on February 2.  Since, three children were hospitalized, said Chicago Breaking News.  Health officials said that the cause of this outbreak was linked to negligent hand washing.

E. coli may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death.  Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps and watery diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days.  E. coli generally taints meat through improper butchering and processing practices and, once released in the body, produces the Shiga-producing toxins that have been linked to kidney damage in young children, and can also lead to kidney failure and death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that the principal cause of acute renal failure among children in the United States is E. coli O157:H7 infections; among patients with HUS (Hemolytic-uremic syndrome), about five percent will die.  Also, most cases of diarrhea-associated HUS are caused by shiga-producting E. coli (STEC), of which strain O157:H7 is most closely linked with HUS worldwide; at least 80 percent of childhood HUS is attributable to infection with STEC, primarily E. coli O157:H7.

E. coli is routinely found on cattle farms and in the intestines of healthy livestock with outbreaks occurring when meat becomes tainted during slaughter and organisms contaminate the grounding process.  Tainted meat is released and consumed by the public.

In recent years the transmission route for E. coli O157:H7 is shifting and not always caused by meat consumption with outbreaks occurring more and more with direct and indirect animal contact—zoonotic contact—such as at petting zoos, said the CDC.  Also, consuming contaminated produce, milk, or juice or swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water can pass the E. coli infection, as can poor hygiene or hand-washing habits when bacteria in diarrheal stools are involved.

According to CDC estimates, there are over 70,000 cases of infection and 61 deaths occurring in the U.S. annually.

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