Family health officials in France are looking into more than 20 cases, most affecting children.
The Hauts-de-France Public Health Agency (ARS) has reported a suspected outbreak among students in schools in a Northern French commune.
A total of 21 students enrolled in three schools in Saint-Andre-lez-Lille have been identified to date and several children have required hospitalization. Although officials did not identify the agent responsible, local media reported that it was E.coli. However, they didn’t mention the serotype. The Hauts-de-France ARS is yet to respond to a request to clarify.
The health agency coordinates investigations to find the source of the outbreak and implement any public health precautions. Parents of students from the schools involved are being informed.
Healthcare professionals were also informed about the incident to better prepare them for managing suspected patients.
Officials have determined that the contamination occurred around September 2 or 3. They took into account the incubation time of one to eight days, and the dates of symptom onset. All the sick children were found eating in schools’ canteens.
The municipal caterer that supplies food to three schools also supplies food to three other schools and nurseries, but there have been no reports of infections at these sites.
About E. coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible food poisoning. The infections can mimic other diseases and require specific tests.
E.coli infections can be difficult to diagnose. However, symptoms such as severe stomach cramps or diarrhea that are often bloody may vary from one person to the next. Some patients may have a fever. Patients usually recover in five to seven days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, others can experience severe or life-threatening complications and symptoms.
About 5 – 10% of people with E.coli infection develop a potentially fatal condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, increased frequency of urination and small, unexplained bruises, bleeding, or pallor.
Many people suffering from HUS will recover in a matter of weeks. However, some may sustain permanent injuries or even death. Although this condition can affect anyone, it is more common in children under five years of age due to their immature immune system, older adults due to deteriorating immune systems and those with compromised immune systems like cancer patients.
People with HUS should seek immediate medical attention. Patients with HUS are likely to be admitted to hospital as the condition can lead to other serious problems, such as chronic kidney disease, hypertension, brain damage and neurologic problems.
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