Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) is investigating an outbreak of E. coli among school children. WCHD officials say four school children have lab-confirmed cases of E. coli and two others have E. coli symptoms after attending the Milk Makers Fest at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on 4/21/15. Two children have been hospitalized.

WCHD is interviewing the ill students and their parents to identify whether there was a common food or water source or activity, such as the petting zoo or other livestock contact. WCHD is also monitoring for spread to other household members. WCHD has contacted medical providers in Whatcom County about the outbreak and have asked them to obtain stool cultures and notify us of any cases of diarrhea in children that attended the event in Lynden.

WCHD is urging that if your child attended the Milk Makers Fest and develops diarrhea before May 1, please take your child to your regular health care provider for evaluation and testing. It is important to wash hands carefully with soap and running water after using the toilet and before eating to prevent the spread of infection. Children with diarrhea should stay home and not return to school until 24 hours after the diarrhea has stopped.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramping, sometimes with vomiting, with or without a low-grade fever. After several days, the diarrhea can become bloody. These infections can be mild, without bloody diarrhea, or can be severe, and complicated by kidney failure and hemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells). Antibiotics and antimotility medicines (antidiarrheal medicines) should not be used with STEC infections, since they increase the risk of kidney failure. Keeping the ill person well hydrated can reduce the risk of kidney failure.