E. coli outbreak prompts health advisory at Lake Wildwood
A health advisory was issued to Lake Wildwood residents Saturday when an investigation found that seven individuals who reported symptoms of E. coli-related illness had all recently swum in the lake.
No other common factors among the affected individuals could be identified.
The Nevada County Environmental Health Department is currently testing water samples from different locations around the lake. Test results received Saturday showed elevated fecal coliforms, which are bacteria that can cause serious illnesses, in shallow water near the Community Center Pool Beach, where the affected individuals had been swimming.
The department is still waiting on test results from other locations and cannot yet confirm whether contamination is present throughout the lake. The Community Center Pool Beach has been closed, and residents are being advised not to swim in the water at any areas around the lake until test results are reviewed. The Environmental Health Department is expected to have more information Wednesday.
Beginning Thursday afternoon, six young children and one adult reported symptoms consistent with E. coli O157, a strain that can cause diarrhea, dehydration and other complications, according to the Nevada County Health and Human Services Agency’s Public Health Department. Four of the affected children have been hospitalized and some have received test results confirming presence of the strain.
According to the Public Health Department, symptoms of E. coli-related illness usually appear between three and 10 days after contamination occurs. Most affected individuals recover without medication within five to 10 days, and most cases resolve without long-term effects, barring complications.
Two of the hospitalized children have developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, the Public Health Department said. The syndrome is a serious complication that can sometimes be caused by E. coli-related illness, according to the department. The syndrome can cause kidney complications and anemia and can have long-term effects. Between 30 and 90 HUS cases per year result in fatality in the U.S., the department said.
“We all have many different types of E. coli in our gut, most of which don’t harm us,” said Ken Cutler, a doctor and public health officer with the Public Health Department. “Unfortunately, this strain releases a toxin that is harmful, called a Shiga toxin, which causes inflammation in the lining of the gut.”
Health officials are now investigating possible sources of contamination. Cutler said E. coli outbreaks associated with a contaminated water source are typically caused by human or animal feces entering the water.
Most E. coli outbreaks, Cutler said, are associated with a contaminated food source, or are spread through contact with animals. An outbreak caused by a contaminated water source is less common.
Since 2011, Cutler said, between one and six cases of E. coli-related illness per year have been reported in Nevada County. But those cases, he said, were sporadic, and none occurred around the same time or were associated with any commonalities.
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