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UPDATED: E. coli Alert Regarding Milk Makers Festival

Some Ferndale schools first grade classes went on field trips to the Milk Makers Festival last week, April 20-24. There are reports of kids suffering from E. coli-like symptoms from the Lynden and Blaine school districts which may be tied to that event. Symptoms may appear as quickly as one day or as late as one week after exposure.

Update 4/28/15 12:45pm: Whatcom County Health published the following information:

The Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) is investigating an outbreak of E. coli among school children. Although the source of infection has not been identified at this time, all of the cases so far have a connection with the Milk Makers Fest at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on 4/21/15. Over a thousand primary school children from all of the school districts in Whatcom County attended the event from 4/21-4/23/15.

WCHD is interviewing the ill students and their parents to identify whether there was a common food or water source or activity, such as the petting zoo or other livestock contact. We are also monitoring for spread to other household members. We have contacted medical providers in Whatcom County about the outbreak and have asked them to obtain stool cultures and notify us of any cases of diarrhea in children that attended the event in Lynden.

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If your child attended the Milk Makers Fest and develops diarrhea before May 1, please take your child to your regular health care provider for evaluation and testing. It is important to wash hands carefully with soap and running water after using the toilet and before eating to prevent the spread of infection. Children with diarrhea should stay home and not return to school until 24 hours after the diarrhea has stopped.

 

From the Lynden School District website:

Across the County there have been a number of confirmed E. coli cases that have been tracked to the Milk Makers Festival held at the fairgrounds last week. Many of our 1st grade elementary students attended this event. Please be sure you know symptoms to watch for and the steps you should take.

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Please read E. Coli Symptoms and Instructions.

From the Blaine School District website:

Health Alert: We have a confirmed contracted case of E. coli at the Blaine Primary School. The Blaine School District is working with the Whatcom County Health Department on the situation.  E.coli symptoms include feeling tired or sick, diarrhea, stomach cramps and occasional bloody diarrhea. If your child has these symptoms please keep them home and call your health care provider. Hand washing stops the spread of the E. coli virus. For more information, please refer to the Whatcom County Health Department’s website.

From the Whatcom County Dairy Women’s Facebook page:;

Whatcom County Dairy Women received word from the Whatcom County Department of Health that several children who may have attended last week’s Milk Makers Fest in Lynden have become ill, possibly with E.coli.

Approximately 1325 first graders plus their chaperones attended the Milk Makers Fest in Lynden sponsored by the Whatcom County Dairy Women. The event, designed to help introduce young students to farming, included the opportunity to pet a variety of farm animals including small horses, sheep, rabbits, chickens and a calf.

Commercial pasteurized chocolate milk was also offered to the children but is not considered a source of contamination as pasteurization destroys E.coli.

Hand sanitizers were provided for the children at various locations including as they entered the trailer with the animals and as they exited the trailer.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the children, their families and loved ones, said Jackie Blok, president of Whatcom County Dairy Women. While we have not confirmed that this educational event is the source of the illness we are deeply concerned for their quick recovery.

While the Department of Health has not confirmed a connection between the suspected E. coli cases and the Milk Makers Fest, if your child attended the event and he/she begins to exhibit symptoms, you should immediately contact your healthcare provider. We are fully cooperating with the Whatcom County Department of Health.

Further information about this situation and possible involvement of Milk Makers Fest will be provided on this Facebook page as soon as it is available.

 

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.

The symptoms vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101˚F/less than 38.5˚C). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.

Best Treatment: Non-specific supportive therapy, including hydration, is important. Antibiotics should not be used to treat this infection. There is no evidence that treatment with antibiotics is helpful, and taking antibiotics may increase the risk of HUS. Antidiarrheal agents like Imodium® may also increase that risk.

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