MONROE — A preschool here has been temporarily closed and two young girls hospitalized after being diagnosed with E. coli infection.
One of the girls has a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, said Heather Thomas, a Snohomish Health District spokeswoman. It can cause kidneys to stop working and patients can develop other serious health problems.
No further information was immediately available on her condition.
The hospitalized girls are both under 5 years old. They attended the Montessori School at 733 Village Way in Monroe.
Although the school itself is not believed to be the source of the infection, approximately 60 children and staff there potentially could have been exposed to E. coli, Thomas said. Children and staff are being tested for a form of the disease called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. It can take up to five days to get test results.
“If a child tests positive, then we’ll look at possibly testing their family,” Thomas said.
Health officials are trying to contact anyone who was at the school since July 11, Thomas said. The school is expected to be closed until Monday so it can be sanitized.
E. coli bacteria live in the intestines of humans and animals. Symptoms begin one to eight days after exposure. Sometimes people become infected by eating contaminated food. People also have become ill after coming into direct contact with livestock or visiting petting zoos. Infected persons, especially young children, may spread the illness to others by failure to wash their hands well after using a restroom.
The concern in this case is because the children are young and attend daycare facility, there’s a higher chance of the disease being spread, Thomas said. The best way to stop the spread of the disease is frequent hand washing.
“Young children aren’t always the best at washing their hands frequently,” Thomas said.
Symptoms of E. coli contamination include stomach cramps, diarrhea which is often bloody, and vomiting. Most people get better in about a week but symptoms can be severe in some people, especially young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
The source of the E. coli contamination of the preschoolers still is being investigated. Health officials think the children likely were exposed to E. coli contamination from livestock near their home.
“People associate E. coli contamination from food,” Thomas said. But it also can be spread by contact with livestock or from water that has been used by animals.
“Anytime kids are playing in a stream or creek, they need to make sure they wash or shower afterwards and not drink the water,” Thomas said.
Health officials said that the school is cooperating fully with the investigation. Children who are not fully potty trained will be kept out of school until they have two negative tests for E. coli. Children who are not fully potty trained will be kept out of school until they have two negative tests for E. coli. It takes about two weeks to get those results, Thomas said.
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; email@example.com.