E. coli grew in (differential medium) MacConkey agar

By Shereen Siewert

State health officials are investigating a significant rise in the number of E. Coli cases in Wisconsin, including a case of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), according to the state Department of Health Services.

An investigation into the source of the infections, which have increased since Nov. 13, is ongoing. At least 20 people, including three children, have been infected, officials said.

State health officials are working with local public health departments to interview people sickened by the bacteria to learn more about their activities, food and water sources, as well as foods and beverages they consumed before they became ill to identify potential common sources of infection.

E. coli O157 is the most common serogroup of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) reported in the U.S. Symptoms vary but often include stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. About five to 10 percent of patients diagnosed with STEC can develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome which may cause kidney failure and prolonged hospitalization.

People can prevent spreading E. coli O157 to others by:

  • Washing hands before preparing or eating food and after using the bathroom or changing diapers. People with STEC can have the bacteria in their poop for weeks to months after they no longer have symptoms. During this time, they can spread STEC to others, which is why it is important to always wash hands carefully with soap and water.
  • Not swimming or having children share baths while they are sick.
  • Staying home from work, school, and daycare. In some cases, people with STEC may need to have their stool tested before they can return to work or daycare.

Specific data related to Marathon County was not immediately available on Tuesday.