DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. -- The Davidson County Health Department says there are three sick children who likely have E. coli infections.
The health department confirmed one of the cases Monday. Davidson County Health Department spokesperson Jen Hames says the child has not been hospitalized and does not go to the same school where the other cases were reported.
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Two Tyro Middle School students were hospitalized last week with severe diarrhea. Health officials are still investigating to determine if their illnesses were caused by E. coli. Those two students remain hospitalized at Brenner Children's Hospital.
"We are investigating it. We are following-up with the families to see where the children have eaten at, what animals they might have been around, who else they may have been around that has been sick," Hames said. "We're just trying to figure out what the link is, if we can find the link, then, at that point, hopefully, we'll be able to educate people about where the problem is at. Then, we can prevent the spread of it to others."
Hames said the cases were reported Friday. At this time, they are not sure if the students contracted it before or after winter break.
At a meeting on Monday, the health department encouraged anyone who has been sick in December with severe or bloody diarrhea to call (336) 242-2300.
The health department describes E. coli as "the naturally occurring bacteria that normally lives in the intestines of people and animals." Most forms are harmless, but certain types can be very infectious and can easily cause illness.
Symptoms of E. coli may include diarrhea, including bloody diarrhea, vomiting, severe abdominal cramps, and low-grade fever.
The Mayo Clinic says E. coli can be found in contaminated produce and could cause H-U-S. To avoid it, keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods. Also, defrost raw meat in your microwave or refrigerator. Don't leave meat on the counter to thaw.
When you do decide to cook burgers, make sure the meat reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
The most important piece of advice? Always wash your hands. Whether it's after going to the bathroom or before eating, keeping your hands clean could be the one step that protects you.
And don't forget to clean food surfaces and utensils often. Counters can be a playground for germs.
WFMY News 2