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County investigating E. coli cases

By Kristopher Wenn

Herald Times Reporter

September 12, 2006

MANITOWOC — The Manitowoc County Health Department is investigating seven cases of E. coli infection that occurred between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1, according to Amy Wergin, county public health nurse manager.

The cases involve people from throughout the county from ages 8 to 66, she said. The department is waiting for test results from a state lab to determine the source of the infections.

Wergin said finding a source is difficult because the cases come from disparate areas of the county.

"We are interviewing people and asking them where they have been and what they have been in contact with to find similarities," she said. "… If there is a common cause we may be able to abate that hazard."

The cases were all referred to the health department from the patients' health care providers.

"We're concerned because this is a much higher rate of infection than normal and there might have been a common cause for infections," Wergin said.

E. coli infection is acquired by ingesting contaminated food or water, or by coming in contact with fecal material from infected people or animals. Infections can be passed from one person to another, Wergin said.

Wergin said the department is trying to determine if the infections came from a food source such as a restaurant or any place where people would be in contact with animals, such as a farm or petting zoo.

E. coli bacteria causes severe abdominal cramping and diarrhea, which is often bloody. There is generally little or no fever associated with the illness.

For more information, call the Manitowoc County Health Department at 920-683-4155.

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