At least four people in the Wichita area have been diagnosed with E. coli after a private event, according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow.
Two of the patients are from Sedgwick County and two are from Harvey County. One of the Harvey County patients is also being treated for hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure that is a complication of E. coli.
It’s unclear whether more people attended the event.
E. coli is a bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, pneumonia and other complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 5 to 10 percent of people with the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli – which is what the local cases have been diagnosed as – develop HUS, which requires hospitalization, according to the CDC.
Infection can occur from coming into contact with contaminated food, water, animals or people, according to the CDC.
There are three other cases being investigated in the state, Rosenow said Friday, but they do not appear to be related to the other cases.
Two of those patients are from Cowley County, where one had both E. coli and HUS and the other just had HUS. The Nemaha County patient was being treated for both E. coli and HUS, Rosenow said.
Some of the patients have been treated at Wesley Medical Center, said Joann Paul, director of quality and infection prevention at Wesley.
HUS is most often found in children, she said, and has about a 10 percent mortality rate. Those with HUS are treated through kidney dialysis while their bodies heal.
Research shows treating the condition with antibiotics actually has worse outcomes for patients, Paul said. In rare cases, the condition can permanently affect the child’s nervous system.
Perhaps the best thing people can do to prevent E. coli is to wash their hands, Paul said. She also encouraged people to cook beef thoroughly and wash fruits and vegetables.
“The world is a germy place,” she said.