July 31, 2017 – Last Thursday afternoon, the Nevada County Public Health Department (NCPHD) started to receive reports of several young children who either had symptoms that were consistent with an E. coli infection or had a preliminary positive result for E. coli O157, which is the most commonly recognized Shiga toxin-producing E. coli strain. This strain can cause diarrhea, dehydration, and complications such as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). HUS is a serious condition with anemia and kidney complications.
As of today, NCPHD has received reports of six young children who are ill, four of whom have been hospitalized, though one of the hospitalized children has been discharged home. Two of the hospitalized children have developed HUS. In addition, one adult closely associated with one of the symptomatic children has been diagnosed with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.
NCPHD is working closely with the Nevada County Environmental Health Department on an active investigation of this outbreak. Within hours of receiving the initial reports, no common food or animal exposure had been identified, but the Lake Wildwood Main Beach area was determined to be a common recreational site among all of the suspected cases.
On Friday morning, staff from the Environmental Health Department (in cooperation with the Lake Wildwood Association) closed the beach in question to ensure public health and safety, and they collected water samples near the beach shoreline and swim area. Test results received Saturday showed elevated fecal coliforms, which are bacteria that can cause serious illness.
For this reason, the Lake Wildwood Main Beach and swimming area will remain closed until levels fall. As a precautionary measure, NCPHD sent an advisory to all Lake Wildwood residents recommending no recreational swimming in the lake until additional beach areas have been tested. NCPHD emphasized that this is most critical for more vulnerable populations including young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems. In addition, Environmental Health Department staff worked with the Lake Wildwood Association to post warnings at all public beaches along the lake.
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As of today, the source of the contamination has not been determined. The Environmental Health Department coordinated with the Public Works Department to determine if there were any failures to the existing wastewater treatment plant pump stations. The Public Works team inspected all wastewater pump systems and confirmed there are no current leaks and all systems appear to be functioning correctly. The Public Works team will continue monitoring. Other possible sources of contamination include wildlife scat near the shoreline.
The symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), vomiting and sometimes fever. It can take up to ten days after exposure to develop symptoms, and most people recover within five to ten days. “This illness is more dangerous in young children than healthy adults,” said Dr. Ken Cutler, Nevada County Health Officer. “If you or a loved one experience these symptoms, please contact your health care provider right away.
If there are complications such as dehydration or anemia, timely treatment can make a significant difference in your recovery.” Moreover, anyone with symptoms or caring for someone should wash hands meticulously and frequently and not prepare food for others.
For more information about E.Coli, visit the California Department of Public Health’s website located at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/E-coli-O157H7.aspx.