Two elementary school girls – ages 7 and 9 – in Carmel Creek, San Diego, have been sickened with an E. Coli infection, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency officials said. According to this news report, the girls have been hospitalized, but are expected to recover. Officials are still trying to determine the source of the E. Coli bacteria. Carmel Creek School, where the girls attended, notified parents about the infection on October 29, 2008 as a precaution.
The school’s principal says the school was certainly not a source, but Health and Human Services officials have not confirmed that yet. E. Coli can come from a number of sources including lettuce, raw milk, unpasteurized apple cider, hamburgers that are not cooked properly or from petting zoos or animal exhibits, according to county health officials.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control information states that the most common symptoms of E. Coli infections include stomach cramps and diarrhea. In rare cases, there have been fatalities, but usually an E. Coli infection lasts about a week. These infections mostly affect young children, the elderly or those with weak immune systems. Others in the area who have been affected by an E. Coli infection are asked to report it right away to the County of San Diego Health and Human Services at 619-515-6620.
According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2003, more than 28 million children receive meals daily in the nation’s public schools through the federally funded National School Lunch Program. The report, which analyzed CDC’s food-borne illness statistics, discovered that 195 outbreaks of food-borne illnesses were reported in schools between 1990 and 1999. These outbreaks involved about 12,000 people.
The importance of food safety in schools cannot be minimized, especially because children have a higher risk of complications from some food-borne illnesses. For instance, children are particularly susceptible to E. coli. According to the GAO report, children between the ages of 1 and 9 have the highest infection rate for E. coli. School occurrences of food-borne illnesses from all schools constituted less than 4 percent of total food-borne outbreaks reported in the United States between 1973 and 1999. But they were responsible for more than 10 percent of all outbreak-related illnesses during this period. In fact, a single outbreak can cause illness in many children.
Those affected by food-borne illnesses must contact their local health agency right away so that officials can detect the source of the contamination and prevent the outbreak from becoming more widespread. If you believe you were sickened because of someone’s negligence, please contact a California food-borne illness attorney for a consultation.