Seven Infected with E. coli; Six Directly Connected to Oak Leaf Dairy Farm
Oak Leaf Dairy Farm has temporarily closed its doors to the public after being tied to an ongoing outbreak of E. coli. Seven individuals, ranging from 2 to 25, have contracted the illness. Two of the cases subsequently developed the potentially lethal condition hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a fact confirmed both by the state department of health and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Six of the seven outbreak patients had recently visited the goat farm, located in Lebanon, Connecticut.
Connecticut Department of Health (DPH) Commissioner Raul Pino said in a statement that “DPH has informed of several patients from Southeastern Connecticut who have become ill with E. coli. We are closely monitoring the situation and working diligently with our partners at the CDC and other relevant stakeholders. We will continue to work diligently to provide the public with the information it needs as we investigate.” The DPH confirmed that the strain of E. coli involved in the outbreak is E. coli O157.
According to the farm’s owner, Mark Reynolds, the DPH banned the farm from allowing the public to visit its goats and prohibited the establishment from distributing unpasteurized products. E. coli has never been linked to the farm in the past, he said.
“Most people recover, but this can be a fatal illness. That is why we are very concerned about those who have been hospitalized,” said Dr. Matthew Cartter, director of infectious diseases at DPH.
Searching for Additional Victims
The DPH stated that the farm voluntarily decided to shut down animal visits by the public, though other news reports indicate that the farm’s owner has been instructed by the DPH not to allow the public to visit the farm.
To identify additional outbreak cases and further investigate the outbreak, the agency brought in experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. DPH now says it is coordinating with the Uncas Health District and the state Department of Agriculture as well.
“It is really important to get the work out to those who visited the farm,” said Cartter. The dairy farm “had several events earlier in March where people were allowed to pet the goats. We think that’s important in this case.”
In an effort to identify all potential cases, the DPH is asking anyone who visited Oak Leaf Dairy to contact DPH officials.
Two Outbreak Cases Develop Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome
HUS, developed in two of the patients, attacks the kidneys by changing the blood’s ability to clot, and can develop in patients who have contracted E. coli, particularly children and younger individuals.
Dr. Nicholas Bennett, Medical Director of Infectious Diseases and Immunology at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, noted that if HUS “goes unrecognized, you may have very severe renal failure and very severe blood abnormalities.”
HUS occurs in about ten percent of E. coli cases and can lead to total kidney failure. The medical community recognizes the condition as the most common cause of kidney failure in infants and young children; however, adolescents and adults are also susceptible. The elderly, a particularly susceptible group, often die as a result of the disease.