Birmingham News reports that ShyAnne Bailey has been an intensive care patient at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham for more than three weeks. The 4-year-old girl from Chilton County was admitted a few days after eating a hamburger, and has tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 infection.
Doctors have removed most of ShyAnne’s colon and gave her a temporary colostomy. Her kidneys and pancreas have failed, and she lost her eyesight for a week and a half. She will be spending at least another month in the hospital.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that the bacteria causes 73,000 infections and 61 deaths in the United States each year. Dr. J.P. Lofgren, state epidemiologist, said the number of E. coli cases reported in Alabama hit a record high last year, 32. The year before, in 2003, only 17 cases were reported.
Infections often are caused by eating undercooked hamburger meat, which can be contaminated during slaughter. Other sources include sprouts, lettuce, salami, unpasteurized milk and juice, and swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water, as well as petting animals who may have infected fecal matter on their fur or skin.
Infections often start with abdominal cramps and diarrhea. The infection can also cause a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, in which red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail.