Public health officials are investigating the first report of a possible E. coli infection on Mercer Island since boil-water advisories started last weekend.
Initial tests show a child may be infected with E. coli 0157, but the diagnosis won’t be confirmed until later this week by the state laboratory, Public Health spokeswoman Hilary Karasz said. The child, whose age was not released, is not in the hospital, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County.
A definitive link between the Mercer Island child’s infection and the E. coli source may never be found, according to Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Meagan Kay.
“E. coli comes from a variety of sources including ground beef, unpasteurized milk and cheese and produce. We may never be able to definitively link this case to a particular source,” she said in a statement.
All of the 18 water samples collected on Saturday were clear of E. coli and total coliform, but authorities are keeping the boil-water advisory in place, city officials announced Sunday.
When asked what would need to happen to finally lift the boil-water advisories if an E. coli source is never pinpointed, city spokesman Ross Freeman said he’s not sure.
“It’s tough to answer that now,” said Freeman. “Tomorrow we’ll be more hopeful about answering that.”
Mercer Island School District expects to follow its regular schedules. Public schools have brought in portable hand-washing stations and will be serving “heat and eat” foods like chicken nuggets or pizza.
Public Health officials are continuing to monitor local medical centers for reports of suspected E. coli infections and infection symptoms, which include diarrhea that is often bloody, and severe abdominal cramps. Less common symptoms include fever and vomiting. Healthy adults can recover within a few days from the infection, but for children and the elderly an infection can be life-threatening.