Local News

Three Robeson Co. Children Remain Hospitalized After E. coli Outbreak

Posted December 6, 2001

— A Robeson County school is temporarily closed due to an outbreak of

E. coli


About 40 children at

Prospect Elementary School

have shown symptoms of E. coli; 11 children have tested positive for the bacteria. Three students are hospitalized.

Two of three students are in the intensive care unit at UNC Hospitals. Doctors said that Nicholas Bullard, 8, and Eden Locklear, 11, continue to show improvement, but are expected to remain at the hospital through next week.

Two children who tested positive were not from the school.

Most E. coli infections are caused by eating undercooked beef.

The Robeson County Health Department ruled out the school cafeteria, its workers and the water supply as a source of the bacteria.

Officials believe the bacteria came from food brought to the school for a Thanksgiving celebration.

"We've asked the school not to introduce food unless it's commercial or wrapped. I know we're in the holiday season, but if a person is at home and makes a meatloaf and then decorates cupcakes, they could carry the disease with them," said Bill Smith, Robeson County Health Director.

"The food link is over now," Smith said. "We are looking now at secondary outbreaks. People who have been infected can transmit the disease. That's why we are stressing handwashing and making sure food is cooked properly."

As a precaution, the school will be cleaned from top to bottom on Wednesday.

E. coli Information:

  • More than 73,000 cases of E. coli are reported in the United States each year.
  • Most cases have been linked to undercooked, contaminated beef. Infection can also occur after drinking unpasteurized milk or juices.
  • E. coli bacteria can spread from person to person through fecal matter.
  • Infection often causes bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps and, occasionally, kidney failure.
  • E. coli infection can be prevented by thoroughly cooking meats, avoiding unpasteurized milk and washing hands carefully.
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