In June of 2002, the Disease Control Section of the Tarrant County Public Health Department (TCPHD) in Fort Worth, Texas, was notified that a 2-year old child had been hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a complication of E. coli O157:H7 infection. In the following days, TCPHD received several additional reports of E. coli O157:H7 illness, including five culture-positive cases.
During its investigation into the outbreak, TCPHD learned that all of the victims were associated with the CCC Alternative Learning Program Daycare in Fort Worth, Texas; 12 children who attended the daycare, one daycare staff member, and one parent of a daycare attendee had all fallen ill with E. coli infections. TCPDH’s inspection of the daycare revealed “several breaches in food preparation and procedures at the daycare facility.” In its investigation report, TCPDH noted:
- The daycare had not obtained a city permit to prepare and serve food, but was providing food for the children attending the daycare.
- Appropriate sources of drinking water were not available in the building housing the smaller children; water jugs were filled using the bathroom sink.
- A swimming pool at the facility was in use with murky water prior to chlorination and the daycare had not obtained a city permit.
Perhaps the most important finding during TCPHD’s investigation was that staff, parents and children reported frequently eating portable lunches on the daycare grounds by a pond. The pond collected run-off from a pasture that held grazing cattle. TCPDH reported that several samples of pond water confirmed a heavy concentration of E. coli O157:H7.
Marler Clark represented the family of a little girl who became ill with E. coli and HUS in litigation against the daycare facility.