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Florida Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Investigation Widens to 37

Recombinomics Commentary
March 29, 2005

>> Officials said Tuesday that the total of HUS cases linked to fairs has reached 17 patients with 20 more suspected cases, Local 6 News reported.

The three latest victims are 18-month-old twins and a sibling, Local 6 News has learned. The three children have the E. coli strain that could lead to HUS.

The three children are in good condition Tuesday night, Local 6 News reported. However, two other children at Florida Hospital remain seriously ill. One of the kids is on dialysis and the other is on a ventilator.

Most of the people who have become sick visited either the Central Florida Fair in Orlando or the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City. All have had diarrhea and have either tested positive for the particular E. coli strain or developed the kidney disease, HUS. The disease, which can be fatal, is caused by toxins from the E. coli infection.

Also Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture said that animals from Central Florida petting zoos carry a strain that could lead to HUS.

Monday, the state's top health official confirmed that the sudden death of a Pasco County girl is being investigated as possibly linked to an outbreak of kidney disease caused by E. coli bacteria believed to have been contracted at a fair. <<

The investigation of HUS cases associated with the two petting zoos has dramatically expanded to 37.  The initial 17 are from the central Florida area.  It is not clear if the addition 20 cases under investigation are all Florida residents. Since it is peak tourist season, many of the visitors to the two fairs were from out of state.

The finding of 0157:H7 in the three most recent cases increases the likelihood that all or most will be linked to the virulent strain of E. coli, which can lead to HUS.  Finding it in all three of the latest cases solidifies the evidence that the bacteria was the etiological agent.

The fatal case from Wesley Chapel in Pasco County presented somewhat differently.  She had a temperature of 103 degrees C, which is unusual for the E. coli bacterial infection.  However, she did have back pain before she collapsed and died in her home on March 23, and she did attend the Strawberry Festival.

Identifying the precise source of the E coli may be difficult, because many of the animals have tested positive for at least one strain of E coli, which is not unexpected.

However, the number of infected children could be expected to continue to grow.

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