An E-coli outbreak has been reported in Brazos County. Eight persons have contracted the strain O157:H7. Two of these are young brothers from the Bryan College Station area, who remain in Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, TX. The remaining six are adults and have not been hospitalized.
E. coli is a harmful bacterium that inhabits the digestive systems of animals that are warm-blooded. Most types of this organism can be harmless, but there are a few strains that cause humans severe distress. This particular strain, the O157:H7 is especially troublesome, because it secretes a type of toxin, known as Shiga, which erodes the interior lining of human kidneys.
People infected with this strain are known to experience acute stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea mixed with blood. Typically, young and middle aged adults recover from the infection in 5 to 7 days. Health officials are more concerned about children younger than five and seniors past the age of 65. These groups are vulnerable to a number of complications that may result from infection, including hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which is a type of kidney failure. The two children admitted this week have been reported as fighting for their lives.
Meanwhile, the ultimate source of the E-Coli outbreak remains undetermined. Officials inspected a number of local restaurants to see if all those infected had possibly eaten at the same establishments. The investigation ruled out this possibility when they learned that patients had all eaten at different places the week that they contracted the bacteria. Further investigations into local stores and food distributors have likewise failed to turn up any evidence. Some now believe that the source lies beyond the local area.
Officials caution that this particular strain can be exacerbated by antibiotics. Parents who suspect their children may be infected should not give antibiotics, but rather seek immediate medical attention.