An E. Coli outbreak at an Illinois high school is part of a multi-state outbreak being investigated by federal officials.
According to school district officials, the outbreak at Huntley High School in suburban Chicago was identified on Sept. 17. Nine high school students were confirmed as outbreak patients, and several more were suspected to be part of the outbreak.
Although federal officials have not posted any information about the outbreak, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed to Food Safety News that the agency is involved in the investigation.
“The school outbreak was part of a larger multistate E. coli O157 investigation of 22 illnesses from 10 states. Illness reports have decreased, with most illnesses being in September. A source for this outbreak has not been identified,” according to the CDC spokesperson.
The CDC spokesperson would not provide Food Safety News with any details about the investigation except for the total number of patients and states involved.
The high school’s principal sent out a letter to parents saying that the outbreak at the school was considered to be over. The principal said in the letter that the outbreak investigation had been “elevated” to include the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Neither the school nor the McHenry County Health Department reported whether any sick students were hospitalized.
The county health department did not report any other cases of infection outside of the student population. Public health officials interviewed ill students to determine if there was a typical food they ate before becoming sick. Still, the department did not report on the status of that part of the investigation.
The school remained open during the outbreak.
About E. coli infections
Food contaminated with E. coli usually doesn’t look, smell, or taste bad. Anyone with symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.
The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each 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. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications.
About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, tiredness, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.
Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.
People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other severe and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.
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