No one knows the source of a potentially deadly outbreak of food-born contamination in Bryan College Station. Eight suspected cases of e-coli contamination are being investigated by the state and health officials in Brazos County. Five of those cases have been confirmed, three requiring hospitalization, including 17-month-old Noah Melton and his four-year-old brother Jack, who are recovering. An adult was released.
“Right now we’re optimistic that it’s just isolated here, in terms of geography,” Dr. Eric Wilke, Brazos County health authority told KTRH. “There’s not a single restaurant or anything that would make it easy for us to isolate.”
Dr. Rodrigo Hasbun, associate professor of infectious disease medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, told KTRH he suspects under-cooked ground beef could be a culprit, because this strain of e-coli is often found in the gut of cattle.
Dr. Jeffrey Starke, Director of Infectious Diseases at Texas Children’s Hospital, where the two Melton children are being treated, says "e-coli is a very common germ."
“We all have it in our intestines,” he told KTRH. “But this is a particular strain of e-coli called 0517, and some people will get no illness, some people will get mild illness, and some folks, unfortunately particularly children, get a reaction called hemolytic uremic syndrome.”
The symptom that sets off red flags is bloody diarrhea, in addition to fever that won’t come down.
Dr. Stark says parents should watch their children for a change in behavior, either too sleepy or too irritable, and becoming very pale, like in a person who is very anemic. Should your child present those symptoms, he advises that you notify your physician.
The Texas Department of State Health Services says the onset of illness occurred in mid-April. Spokesperson Christine Mann told KTRH children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. “For any children experiencing serious gastro-intestinal illness, particularly bloody stools,” Mann said, “We recommend they seek medical attention.”
Age ranges of identified cases range from one to 51 years of age.