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Niagara health chief warns against e. coli strain

LOCKPORT – Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton is asking hospital and other medical facilities to test patients with diarrhea for a particular strain of e. coli bacteria called STEC.

Stapleton said there has been a recent increase in toxin-producing e. coli infections and kidney failure complications in affected children. STEC, which stands for Shiga toxin-producing e. coli, can lead to severe illness or death from hemolytic uremic syndrome. The syndrome occurs in about 6 percent of cases, but the rate rises to as high as 20 percent among children younger than 5 years old.

Symptoms of STEC infection appear one to 10 days after ingestion of the bacteria and include severe diarrhea that is often bloody, vomiting and abdominal pain. The uremic syndrome may follow seven to 10 days after the onset of diarrhea, with patients showing pale skin, decreased urine production and dark or tea-colored urine.

Sources of STEC include contaminated food such as ground meat, raw milk, raw fruits and vegetables, contaminated water, contact with cows, sheep, goats and deer, or the feces of infected animals and humans. Recent outbreaks in the U.S. were attributed to raw foods contaminated by STEC in the environment and by exposure to infected animals.