The Davidson County Health Department is investigating reports of illness in three children likely due to E. coli infection, the agency said this afternoon.

Two Tyro Middle School students have been hospitalized with recent bouts of severe bloody diarrhea. It is reported that they suffer from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  A case of E. coli has been identified in a third child who hasn’t been hospitalized and doesn’t attend the same school as the Tyro students, the Health Department says.

“We are asking anyone in the community who has been sick during the month of December with severe or bloody diarrhea to please call the Davidson County Health Department at (336) 242-2300. If you are still sick, please seek medical care.” said Monecia Thomas, the Davidson County Health Department health director.

E. coli are naturally occurring bacteria that normally live in the intestines of people and animals. While most E. coli are harmless, some produce Shiga toxin.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli are found in animals, especially ruminant livestock, such as sheep, deer, goats and cows. Transmission can occur following contact with these animals or their feces or following consumption of undercooked meats or unpasteurized foods or drinks, according to the Health Department.