GASTON COUNTY, N.C. -- The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services confirmed this morning that a Gaston County toddler has passed away from an E. coli infection, as part of an outbreak in people who attended the Cleveland County Fair.
In a media release, DHHS Secretary, Al Delia was quoted as saying, "We extend our deepest sympathy to the family. Losing a child is a devastating thing for a family to endure and our thought are with them at this difficult time."
The Division of Public Health of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with Local Health Departments is investigating the outbreak of the E. coli infection in people who attended the Cleveland County Fair. A total of 14 children and six adults have been affected. Six individuals have been, or are currently, hospitalized - all of whom are children.
Cleveland County has seen nine of these cases, Gaston County has had five incidents, Lincoln County has had five cases, and York County in South Carolina has had one.
Symptoms can occur as late as 10 days after exposure to the bacteria. They may include diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomitting, and sometimes a low grade fever.
Anyone who visited the Cleveland County Fair and is experiencing these symptoms, is urged to see their doctor or healthcare provider right away.
Public health investigators have not yet determined a specific source of the outbreak, but confirm 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. The bacteria is transferred is people touch contaminated material, food or animals, and then touch their hands to their mouths, or to others.
The State Health Department stresses the importance of hand-washing, especially when attending fairs and festivals.