By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The Wood County Health Department has recorded three years of cases of E. coli over the past week.
Health Commissioner Ben Robison reported Thursday evening to the Wood County Board of Health that 15 known cases of E. coli were identified last week. That compares to 27 cases over the past five and a half years in the county, he said.
“We are at the very beginning of an investigation,” Robison said.
Tests are being conducted by the Ohio Department of Health to see if there is a link between the cases, which have affected local residents between the ages of 13 and 60. The results are expected next Tuesday.
Robison warned that the 15 known cases are likely just the start.
“That number, we expect it to grow,” he said.
The Health Department is asking anyone in the county who thinks they may be or have recently experienced possible symptoms of E coli to go to https://woodcountyhealth.org/health-promotion-and-preparedness/infectious-disease/ and click on the “take this survey” link in blue.
Of the 15 cases reported so far, five people have been hospitalized, ranging in age from 21 to 60, Robison said.
The Wood County Health Department is teaming up with other agencies to try to solve the riddle of the origin of E. coli. These partners include the Ohio Department of Health and other county health departments. It could be extended to the Ohio Department of Agriculture if a link is identified with food products in the early stages of cultivation or processing.
Robison explained that people sometimes believe that the last place or food they ate is the culprit when it comes to gastrointestinal issues. But the first symptoms of E. coli may not appear for 10 days after eating the contaminated food, he said.
A health board member reported on Thursday that a loved one had become very ill and had to be taken to hospital after eating at the Wood County Fair. But Robison noted that the fair food establishment may not be the issue.
Robison hopes the ODH lab results will provide vital information, such as whether the E. coli are all the same strain.
“We are moving quickly but intentionally,” he said.
Bob Midden, Board Member, asked if there had been any national or regional alerts for contaminated products or other foods. Robison said the health department will be looking “in all directions” for the culprit.
“We’re not closing any doors,” Robison said.
E. coli are bacteria found in the environment, food, and the intestines of people and animals. E. coli is a large and diverse group of bacteria, according to the CDC.
The symptoms of E. coli vary depending on the source and the person infected. Symptoms can include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting. Some people may have a fever, which is usually not very high (less than 101°F). Most people recover in five to seven days. Some infections are very mild, but others are serious and even fatal.
Most people start feeling sick three to four days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria. However, illnesses can begin between one and 10 days after exposure.