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KCHD provides new E. coli update for Knoxville

KNOXVILLE – The Knox County Health Department (KCHD) continues to investigate a cluster of E. coli infections in children. All potential sources remain under investigation; however, the evidence continues to suggest the cases are associated with two probable sources: consumption of raw milk and contact, either direct or indirect, with farm animals. KCHD is investigating any potential connections between these two likely sources. However, while it would be rare, it is possible these are two unrelated E. coli clusters occurring at the same time.

The health department’s ongoing investigation has included conducting extensive interviews with the families of the ill children; contacting persons who may be at risk to see if anyone in the household is ill; examining all potential sources; plotting symptom onset to aid in determining the first case, potential exposures and the type of outbreak; analyzing the statistical significance of the findings; and collecting samples from both sites. Samples collected from the farm and child care facility are still being analyzed. In these situations, public health laboratories not only culture the samples for the pathogen in question, E. coli 0157 in this case, they also conduct a more in-depth analysis that can reveal the exact genetic fingerprint of the strain of E. coli 0157. While samples are a part of due diligence in a disease investigation, they are just one piece of the overall evidence.

Both Kids Place, Inc., Mascot, Tenn., and French Broad Farm, Knox County, Tenn., have fully cooperated throughout KCHD’s investigation, including sharing contact information of those who may be at risk, supporting sample collection and ceasing operations as requested. At this point in the investigation and in light of the fact that there is no ongoing transmission, KCHD is lifting the health directive requesting French Broad Farm temporarily cease operations. While the investigation thus far has revealed no specific problems with French Broad Farm, the risk in consuming raw milk cannot be mitigated. Even with safety precautions in place at a dairy and adherence to the strictest dairying procedures, there is no way to ensure raw milk, while legal, is safe for consumption. This is why health officials recommend the public consume only pasteurized milk and dairy products.

KCHD lifted the directive for Kids Place, Inc. on Friday, June 8, 2018. By following existing state and national procedures for infection control and mitigation at a permitted, regulated facility, the risk at Kids Place, Inc. has been mitigated.

Published June 17, 2018

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