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Mercer Island child believed positive for E. coli infection

Health officials say a Mercer Island child is believed to have been infected by E. Coli, but there is no way to determine if it is linked to the recent contamination of the city’s water supply.

Public Health – Seattle & King County says the child is presumed to have E. coli O157 infection and results will be confirmed by the Washington State Public Health Laboratory next week. The child is not hospitalized.

E. coli 0157 infection is not uncommon in King County, with 20-30 cases reported each year. The source of most is typically never identified, the department says.

“We don’t know whether the infection in this child was caused by the water on Mercer Island,” said Dr. Meagan Kay, Medical Epidemiologist for Public Health – Seattle & King County, in a statement Sunday. “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.”

The health department says it can’t definitively tie the infection to the city water supply because the child had multiple possible exposures including food potentially contaminated with the bacteria along with the Mercer Island water system.

The city has detected E. coli in the water system twice in the past week, prompting two separate boil water advisories and the closure of Mercer Island restaurants.

The boil order remained in effect Sunday, although tests of the city’s system came up negative for E. coli over the weekend.

The health department is continuing to monitor for cases of gastrointestinal illness in the community is reminding health providers to promptly report cases or clusters of suspected E. coli infection as well as other notifiable enteric infections.

But officials say there is no evidence of an increase in gastrointestinal illnesses among Mercer Island residents.

Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection include diarrhea, which is often bloody, and severe abdominal cramps. Fever and vomiting may occur but are less common.

While healthy adults usually recover within a few days from E. coli infection, children, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions have an increased risk of developing a life-threatening condition, the health department says.

For more information on E coli visit the health department website.

More than a dozen restaurants and other food service establishments have reopened with limited menus, and more continue working to seek approval from the health department.

The city is providing updates on its website.

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