An E. coli O157 outbreak in the Hildale, Utah area was first reported on July 3, when six cases were confirmed. The outbreak has grown to 11 confirmed cases, according to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD).

The first six cases included two children who tragically died after developing a kind of kidney failure caused by a complication of E. coli O157 called hemolytic uremic syndrome, also referred to as HUS. A 6-year-old girl died June 30 and and 3-year-old boy died earlier in June. They both lived in the same Hildale housing complex, as did the other four of the first six confirmed cases. Some of the newer cases did not live in the complex.

Most of the 11 people sickened are young children, and they are at higher risk of developing kidney failure from the E. coli infection, as did the two little ones who died. It is Shiga toxins produced by the E. coli that travel to the kidneys, shred red blood cells, and create blood clots in tiny blood vessles in the kidneys.

What is the Source of the E. coli Outbreak in Hildale?

To date, the initial source of the outbreak has not been determined. The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has tested the city water system and ruled out that as the source because E. coli was not found in any of the water samples. Other testing is being done on samples taking from food, surfaces in the housing complex and other locations.

Bacteria in Petri Dish Testing

SUPHD is advising residents of Hildale and surrounding areas not to consume raw milk or any previously purchased ground beef until further notice. This is a standard cautionary measure because these two products have been the source of many past outbreaks. However, this does not mean that they are the source of this outbreak. In fact, the initial illness in the outbreak could have been caused by animal contact, and that first sick person could have inadvertantly spread the illness.

The mother of the 6-year-old who died suspects the source is dirty diapers thrown in the yard of her housing complex.  A dog apparently tore them up, and some of the residents, including her daughter, worked to clean up the mess. Health officials are looking at this as a possible source.

If food was the source of the outbreak, the companies that sold and processed that food are legally responsible, according to Fred Pritzker, a food safety lawyer who has won millions for E. coli victims and their families. This means that the companies can be sued for money to pay those sickened and the families of the children who died. Fred and his team provide free consultations for people who want to know if they can sue for E. coli poisoning.

It is possible the bacteria spread from the original source to other food or locations. It looks like some of the cases may have been spread from human to human.

Because the source has not been found, residents of the Hildale area need to watch for symptoms of an E. coli O157 infection, including severe stomach pain and diarrhea (often bloody). If you or your child has these symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediatley.