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June 13, 2021

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E. coli at club sent county into action

About 225 people have been contacted since child fell ill

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No one else has tested positive for E. coli following last week’s announcement that a child who tested positive had played at Lake Shore Athletic Club.

Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County’s health officer, said results of 10 tests are pending.

It takes 48 hours to get results, he said Thursday.

Melnick said the supervised play area at the west Hazel Dell athletic club, which closed Aug. 5 and was thoroughly disinfected, may be allowed to reopen Monday if all of the pending tests are negative.

After a parent of the child who tested positive contacted the county health department, Melnick issued a press release to alert parents whose children visited the play area between July 10 and Aug. 4.

Melnick said the health department has contacted approximately 225 people.

He said staff at the athletic club had an attendance sheet with the name of every child who had been in the play area, but some contact numbers for parents had not been updated, which prompted the county to send out a news release.

Melnick said the county also sent a notice to health care providers.

He said 33 children and four staff members were considered “probable” cases for E. coli, as they had experienced gastrointestinal distress. Melnick said that he recommended all of the probable cases to submit stool samples, the only way to confirm E. coli O157:H7.

Twenty-seven children were tested; 17 tested negative and 10 are pending.

Three adult staff members were tested and tests all came back negative. One declined to be tested.

Melnick said parents of six children declined to have their children tested. He said the health department can only recommend the test.

“How would we enforce this? I can’t force kids to produce stool samples,” Melnick said.

Melnick said he assumed parents did not want to bother having their children tested — which could be done through a private provider or for free at the health department — because their symptoms had cleared. However, people with E. coli can still transmit the bacteria even if they aren’t showing symptoms, which can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that may be bloody.

“Even after you recover, or don’t develop symptoms, you can continue to pass the germs,” Melnick said.

None of the six untested children attend day care, Melnick said, and even when the play area reopens the children will be on a “no play” list until Aug. 30.

By then, even if they do have E. coli it should be out of their systems, he said.

The untested adult staff member will also have to wait before returning to work.

The original source of the infection is unknown, and the infected child has recovered, Melnick said.

E. coli O157:H7 is a bacterial infection and reactions range from mild to very severe. Or, in rare cases, the bacteria can be fatal.

In April, a 4-year-old Hazel Dell boy, Ronan Wilson, died after contracting E. coli at his day care.

E. coli O157:H7 is most commonly found in food, water or other material contaminated with cattle feces. People can catch it from eating undercooked hamburger or contaminated raw food such as lettuce, spinach or sprouts.

Once infected, people can spread the infection by not thoroughly washing their hands after using the bathroom or diapering a child.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.

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