The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services is actively investigating a cluster of E. coli cases; all confirmed cases to date have occurred in pre-school and school-aged children.
Cluster of E. coli in School-Aged Children Under Investigation in Columbia/Boone County
Four pre-school and school-aged children in Boone County, Missouri have confirmed cases of E. coli, according to local news sources and the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services. Two additional probable cases in the cluster of infections are also under active investigation.
The Columbia cases have been confirmed as Shiga-toxin producing E. coli serotype O157:H7, meaning that the likelihood of complications from infection is higher than with many other forms of the bacteria. While most strains of E. coli are harmless – the bacteria is the most commonly used bacteria in biological research – some strains produce toxins that cause symptoms in humans.
Symptoms of E. coli infection include diarrhea, which may be bloody, and abdominal cramping. Unlike in cases of Salmonella infection, victims of E. coli infection rarely experience fever in conjunction with their illness.
Unique Risks of Childhood E. coli Infections
E. coli O157:H7 and other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections also carry with them the risk of more severe side effects. One of the more common severe side effects of E. coli infection is Hemolytic Uremic
Syndrome (HUS), which can result in acute kidney failure and constitutes the most common cause of acquired kidney failure in childhood.
HUS is fatal in approximately 5-10% of cases. The majority of those with non-fatal infections recover with little or no long-term consequences; however, a small portion of those infected develop chronic kidney disease and will likely require dialysis or a kidney transplant.