5 sick, 2 kids with HUS; raw milk common theme in Missouri E. coli outbreak

The Columbia Tribune reports a Boone County, Missouri, 2-year-old infected with E. coli remained hospitalized this morning in Columbia as one of five Central Missouri residents battling the bacteria.

Geni Alexander, public information officer for the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, said the 2-year-old is one of three Boone County residents with either a confirmed or suspected case of the illness.

Alexander said health officials have determined that consumption of raw dairy products was the only common link for possible exposure among the three Boone County victims. She did not disclose the gender of the victims.

"Each person was identified as a raw dairy consumer," Alexander said, "but we can’t say they all got it from the same place."

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is investigating an increase in cases of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in Central Missouri from late March through early April. In addition to the Boone County 2-year-old, state health officials reported Thursday that a 17-month-old toddler also developed symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a severe condition that can lead to permanent kidney damage in some who survive the illness.

Alexander said the victims of the three Boone County cases range in age from 2 to 31. The 17-month-old victim is not a Boone County resident, she said.

"In public health, we always advise to stay away from those raw dairy products," she said.

A table of raw milk related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/rawmilk.