PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An E. coli outbreak at a Northeast Portland preschool has sickened at least 4 people, the Oregon Health Department confirmed to KOIN 6 News.
Three people have been confirmed with E. coli 0157 infections — 2 children and one adult — and another child has a confirmed infection with lab tests still underway, officials said.
One child has been hospitalized since March 2.
The Multnomah County Health Department found out about the outbreak on Wednesday is working with the leadership at Montessori of Alameda to prevent the spread of the illness.
Multnomah County Health Officer Paul Lewis said this is the “bad kind” of E coli. It spread through person-to-person contact, not just through food, although that is a common way people get infected.
“This is a nasty bacteria, it can make you very sick and it’s easily spread from person to person,” Lewis said.
Lewis said the school officials have been very cooperative in review food safety and sanitation practices.
The E. coli O157 bacteria causes diarrhea and can also produce a toxin that damages blood vessels, particularly in the kidneys.
In a statement, Dr. Paul Lewis with the Multnomah County Health Department, said “We believe at this point, risk to the general public is low as we have no reported cases outside this location in Multnomah County. We are communicating directly with parents at this school because of the serious nature of this disease.’’
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Montessori Alameda executive director Tammy Kennedy said, in part:
“…Our school has very high expectations for health and safety and we practice a high level of sanitation. … I have been in contact with the 3 families and we look forward to them returning to school soon. … We are working with the health department and our families to stay strong and band together during this difficult time. “
Authorities said they haven’t determined what caused this particular E. coli outbreak, and they ‘re investigating the possibility of a connection to the national recall of I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter and related products.
Lewis said one of the top questions they will ask parents of the children who have become sick is whether they served the SoyNut butter to see if that’s the source.
To date, that outbreak has been linked to 16 cases in 9 states, including 2 children siblings in Clackamas County.
Adam Bagerski’s daughter is in the same class as one of the sick kids and has some of the symptoms associated with E. coli. She went to the doctor Friday and had tests done, but they don’t know for sure yet if she was infected.
When Bagerski first heard about the students with E. coli on Monday, he wasn’t sure what to do or how it might affect his daughter.
“I wish that the administration of Montessori of Alameda could have handled the situation in a more timely manner,” Bagerski said. “From what I know, one of the children was hospitalized last Thursday, and [my daughter] didn’t go to the doctor until today. We pulled her out of school until yesterday.”
He’s concerned that his daughter staying in the daycare for several days after students had become sick may have contributed to her getting sick, or to her passing the bacteria to other children.