State and local health officials in Oklahoma are working to find the cause of an outbreak of infections caused by E. Coli.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health sent out a public health alert encouraging people to use bottled water or boil water. The department is also asking residents of Custer and Caddo to fill out a questionnaire about what foods and drinks their children consumed.

Illnesses reported so far include classic foodborne illness symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

About 36 cases have been reported.

“That is likely an underreported number for the overall cases that we might potentially see,” said Jolianne Stone, an epidemiologist with the Oklahoma State Department of Health. 

Most active cases were reported in Weatherford and Hydro. Water has been tested in these communities and tests have come back negative.

To fill out the online survey for the state health department, please click here.

The survey includes questions about what school children attend, where they have eaten, whether they have had any contact with animals at petting zoos or elsewhere, and whether they have had any raw foods or beverages such as unpasteurized milk.

People with questions can contact the Custer County Health Department at (580) 772-6417 or the Caddo County Health Department at (405) 247-2507.

About E. coli infections

Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. 

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients. 

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.    

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