Suspected E. Coli Outbreak in Wisconsin

ByABC News
October 26, 2000, 9:27 AM

W A U K E S H A, Wis. -- Health officials launched an investigationafter 19 students at a grade school became ill and at least one wasconfirmed to have the E. coli bacteria.

The students, ages 5 to 9, from Bethesda Elementary School hadgotten ill in recent days with symptoms similar to E. coli, healthofficials said.

One child being treated at Childrens Hospital of Wisconsin wasconfirmed to have contracted E. coli, and test results were not yetin for another patient there, hospital spokeswoman Melissa Douglas.She declined to give any information on the patients, such as theirages. Neither was in intensive care, she said.

At Waukesha Memorial Hospital, preliminary testing indicated onechild could have E. coli but final results were not yet in, nursingsupervisor Jane Hooten said. She declined to give any informationon the child at the familys request.

Schools to Investigate

No source of the illness was immediately determined, said JeffLandin, chief of staff to Waukesha County Executive Dan Finley.

School officials said they started receiving calls from parents,area hospitals and medical clinics Wednesday informing themBethesda students had signs of E. coli illness.

The Waukesha district contracts with a private firm for the hotlunch program, and food for Bethesda is prepared at West HighSchool and then transported and reheated, administrators said.

Food safety officials from Sodexho Marriott Services, the firmwhich provides food to most of Waukeshas public schools, wereexpected to be in Waukesha Thursday to assist health officials,said Jeanette Jurkiewicz, senior manager of public relations forthe company, based in Gaithersburg, Md.

If any one child is dealing with E. coli, thats a very seriousthing, and of course thats a lot of concern no matter where thatscoming from in terms of E. coli contamination, said BethesdaPrincipal Jack Bothwell.

The investigation will have to consider food brought to school and sharedby youngsters, as well as food served through the hotlunch program, he said. The school has 485 students.