Brazos County Health Department investigating E. coli outbreak

POSTED: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 3:45pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 9:19pm

Most E. coli is an essential component of a healthy intestinal tract but a rare strand of the bacteria, O157:H7 is finding its way around Brazos County and making people sick.

"It's a particular strand of E. coli that produces a toxin that can be dangerous to the kidneys," said Brazos County Health Department Dr. Eric Wilke.

With help from the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Brazos County Health Department, is investigating five confirmed cases of the O157:H7 strand with three additional cases pending the outcome of their test results.

Dr. Wilke says two of those confirmed cases involve siblings under the age of five. Both are hospitalized in Houston due to complications from the bacteria, which can be fatal.

"It can cause a breakdown of red blood cells, uses a lot of your clotting factors, it causes problems with platelets, it plugs the tubes in the kidneys and that ultimately leads to kidney failure," said Wilke.

Right now the health department hasn't been able to find any links between all the cases but it could have come from a number of sources like contaminated water, fruits, vegetables or beef.

"It's a tricky puzzle that people are trying to piece together from what the common links are so I think the initial thought is it's some kind of supply chain contamination but we haven't locked that down yet."

The best way to prevent the bacteria is to wash your hands with hot, soapy water and make sure all food is prepared and cooked properly.

Dr. Wilke cautions everyone to watch for signs or symptoms including bloody diarrhea and vomiting, especially in anyone under the age of five and over 65 because they're at higher risk for complications.



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