GASTON COUNTY, N.C. – The E. coli infection has turned deadly, officials now say the outbreak lead to the death of a Gaston County child.
In a press release sent to NBC Charlotte, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Saturday morning that "the child died from complications of E. coli infection."
Officials went on to point out the virus stemmed from an outbreak in people who attended the Cleveland County Fair.
Fourteen children and six adults who attended the fair have gotten sick with the bacteria.
Health officials continue to investigate to determine the source of this E. Coli outbreak. Cleveland County Fair director Calvin Hastings says the fair tried to prevent E. coli problems by adding hand-washing stations and moving food vendors farther away from animals.
The name of the child who died was not released.
On Friday, health officials were working with Cleveland, Gaston and Lincoln Counties to investigate 15 cases related to the deadly outbreak. Hours later the number had grown to 20.
“This is a tragic reminder of the seriousness of this kind of infection, especially in young children,” State Health Director Laura Gerald said. “We want to remind anyone who is experiencing symptoms of E. coli infection who visited the Cleveland County Fair to see their doctor or healthcare provider right away.”
Symptoms of E. coli infection could occur as late as 10 days after exposure and may include:
- diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, which may be accompanied by abdominal cramps
- sometimes low-grade fever
According to state health officials, some people sickened by E. coli may develop severe complications, including kidney failure or hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Officials advise young children, the elderly, and people with other medical conditions are particularly at risk.
If left untreated, HUS can lead to death.
Public health investigators have not yet determined a specific source of the outbreak, but confirm that the Cleveland County Fair is the common link between all cases.
E. coli are bacteria found in the feces of animals such as cattle, sheep and goats. Should people touch contaminated material, food or animals, they can transfer the bacteria from their hands to their mouths, or to others.