POMONA, N.Y. -- Two more cases of E. coli poisoning have been confirmed in Rockland County children, bringing the total to 18 but satisfying officials that they aren't dealing with a major outbreak, the Rockland County Health Commissioner said Monday.
Tests came back positive on two children from Monsey who were already recovering, said Health Commissioner Dr. Joan Facelle. Three children remained hospitalized at the Westchester Medical Center.
"The good news is there are no new people coming down with the illness and fortunately all the people who have been ill are stable and improving," she said. "With no large numbers all at once, it speaks against there being some large-scale contamination of food or water."
Sixteen people in Monsey and two in Orangetown have confirmed or suspected cases. All but two of the cases are in young children.
The search for the cause of the outbreak was continuing but could be fruitless, she said.
"When we see such small numbers like this, it's looking more and more like some of this was through person-to-person transmission, so we can't be sure whether or not we'll be able to identify what food or person might have been responsible for the first case," the commissioner said.
"Since a lot of younger children were involved, one has to speculate that some of this was person to person, which is not hard to do, especially in households."
An infected child with a dirty diaper, for example, could start a chain of infection among children, she said.
The bacteria usually are spread through undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water or people who work with food and do not wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Typical symptoms include fever, dehydration and diarrhea.
Epidemiologists and nurses were deployed to interview victims and their families, looking for a common link that could indicate where the bacteria might have been picked up but no single cause has been found.