The Fort Wayne News Sentinel reports that E. coli 0157:H7, the most deadly strain of the bacterium, has struck at least nine children in a Fort Wayne day-care center, Allen County Commissioner of Health Dr. Deborah McMahan confirmed Wednesday.
The department is not releasing the name of the center, but McMahan said one child was taken to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. E. coli infections affect an estimated 73,000 people and kill 61 people annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It looks like this was spread person-to-person,” McMahan said.
Day cares are common sites of outbreaks because little children put their hands in their mouths and on various parts of their own bodies, then have direct contact with other youngsters. Although symptoms may be gone after five to 10 days, young children can shed the bacteria in their feces for another week or two, and babies can spread it to adults during diaper changes, which is why parents and child-care providers should remain vigilant about hand-washing.
In most cases, the infection must run its course. Antibiotics are not considered effective. Anti-diarrheal agents also are discouraged in favor of the body naturally ridding itself of the bacteria. Caregivers should be on the alert for dehydration in children and the elderly.