Two reported cases of E. coli infections -- one confirmed and the other one suspected -- believed to have stricken two young children in the Brainerd lakes area have led to serious medical complications in both situations, a Minnesota Department of Health spokesperson said Tuesday.
No links have been made between the two cases and an E. coli outbreak is not suspected, state Department of Health spokesperson Doug Schultz said.
"These things do happen as coincidences," said Schultz. "It doesn't appear there is any relation between the two but we are continuing to follow up to make sure."
While most strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, the E. coli 0157:H7 strain produces a powerful toxin and can cause severe illness, according to the department of health. Most infections have come from eating undercooked ground beef. Other known sources of infection are consumption of sprouts, lettuce, salami, unpasteurized milk and juice and swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water. The infection can be passed from an infected person to another if personal hygiene and handwashing habits are inadequate, according to the department of health.
E. coli often causes severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps and the illness usually runs its course within five to 10 days. But in some people, particularly in the elderly and children younger than 5, the infection can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, which was reported in both cases in the Brainerd lakes area.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome occurs when the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. Most cases of acute kidney failure in children are caused by hemolytic uremic syndrome and most cases of this syndrome are caused by E. coli infections.
Schultz said the two cases in the Brainerd lakes area have been reported within the past 10 days. While one case of hemolytic uremic syndrome has been confirmed as being caused by the E. coli 0157:H7 strain, the results are not yet in about the second case. Schultz said sometimes the cause of hemolytic uremic syndrome cannot be confirmed so officials may not know for sure if E. coli was the cause of the second case. No other information was available about either situation, but Schultz believes the two victims were children.
Schultz said there have been 17 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome reported in Minnesota this year and most cases have been caused by E. coli infections.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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