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E. coli O157:H7 infections in the Child Care Setting

Escherichia (E.) coli bacteria are found in the digestive tracts of most humans and many animals. Usually, these infections are harmless and may even be beneficial. Not all E. coli are alike and, in a few cases, illness may result from infection with particular strains. One strain, E. coli O157:H7, causes one of the most serious digestive tract infections in the United States. Some persons infected with this strain may have very mild illness while others develop severe bloody diarrhea. In some instances, infection may result in widespread breakdown of red blood cells leading to an often fatal, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Infections with this organism are often the result of eating undercooked meat (especially hamburger). However, feces may also spread this infection and children and staff may pick it up from ill persons in child care facilities. To prevent the spread of E. coli O157:H7 infections in your child care facility:

  • Practice good hygiene and careful handwashing.
  • Make sure that meats, especially hamburger, served in child care facilities are cooked well done.
  • Exclude from child care children, especially those in diapers, with diarrhea or loose stools until their diarrhea has resolved. Request that parents take any child with bloody diarrhea to a physician for evaluation.
  • Notify your state or local health department of any child with bloody diarrhea. The health department may require that a person infected with E. coli O157:H7 demonstrate that they are no longer infectious before allowing them to return to work or child care.