Food Safety News reported yesterday that Louisiana’s Silliman Institute students may well be part of an E. coli outbreak. Silliman sent students home last Friday, March 27, resumed classes Monday, March 30, and then called it quits until Monday, April 6.

“There is an outbreak of STEC (Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli) in a school in Region 2 and it is being investigated,” Ashley Lewis, spokeswoman for Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals, told Food Safety News.

“As the investigation progresses, the Department continues to take all necessary preventive measures to protect public health,” Lewis noted, adding, “Louisiana law prohibits the disclosure of the content of epidemiological investigations except to the institutions concerned. The Department would also clarify that any decisions related to facility closure have been made by the facilities themselves.”

The first child sickened in the Louisiana outbreak, a girl, was reportedly hospitalized with the kidney disease known as hemolytic-uremic syndrome, or HUS. The second child, also hospitalized but without HUS, was not being held in a pediatric intensive care unit and was likely going to avoid kidney dialysis.

Today the Department of Health and Hospitals told WBRZ as many as 18 students are exhibiting symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. The department is testing the cases for E. coli or norovirus. At least one case has been tentatively identified as E. coli. Symptoms began Sunday and have hospitalized some of the ill students. The state is investigating what made them sick, but said it does not appear to be in the water or in the food at school.