The number of Lincoln County residents infected with E. coli after attending the Cleveland County Fair has doubled since Sunday afternoon, rising from five detected cases to 10 as of Tuesday afternoon.
This update comes after the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services confirmed over the weekend that a Gaston County child has died from complications of E. coli infection as part of the outbreak in people who attended the fair between Sept. 26 and Oct. 7.
In total, 46 people — 29 children and 17 adults — are known to be or have been affected by this outbreak. Ten people have been or are currently hospitalized.
Public health officials in Raleigh are working with local health departments in Gaston, Cleveland and Lincoln counties to continue investigating the outbreak, which was first announced Thursday. As of Saturday, public health investigators have not yet determined a specific source of the outbreak, but confirm that the Cleveland County Fair is the common link between all cases.
E. coli are bacteria found in the waste of animals such as cattle, sheep and goats. If people touch contaminated material, food or animals, they can transfer the bacteria from their hands to their mouths, or to others. Outbreaks have also been associated with food products.
E. coli infection can spread from person to person; however, it can be prevented through frequent and thorough hand washing, particularly after using the restroom, after changing diapers, after touching animals and before eating, drinking or preparing food.
The symptoms of the bacterial infection, which could occur as late as 10 days after exposure, vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (sometimes bloody) and vomiting.
If fever is present, it usually is not very high. Most people get better within five to seven days. Some infections are very mild, but others can be severe or even life-threatening, a state health department release noted.
Lincoln County Health Department officials said they are working closely with physicians, hospitals, Cleveland County, Gaston County and the state Division of Public Health to monitor the outbreak. They are urging those who attended the fair and are experiencing symptoms to contact their doctors immediately.
For more information on E. coli, visit http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/ecoli.html.