CLEVELAND COUNTY--The E. coli outbreak likely linked to the Cleveland County Fair has people taking extra precautions when it comes to hand washing, as they try to reduce the risk of the infection spreading. Currently, 38 people 16 adults and 22 children, have confirmed cases of E. coli in seven different counties. One toddler has died in connection with this outbreak.
A preschool class at First Wesleyan Church in Gastonia spent its day making cards for Hannah Roberts, one of their classmates who has been in the hospital since last week with E. coli.
"Just being a mom of three children and then, too, having the preschool children here, just how easy it was for her to catch it and sick she got so quickly,” said preschool director Stacie Harkey.
As the number of individuals infected from the outbreak has grown, administrators with the school said they are being extra cautious when it comes to germs.
"We have bleach water, actually two types of bleach water, that cleans two types of things. We're making sure they're getting cleaned multiple times a day just to make sure we're killing everything we can,” said Harkey.
The cleaning is normal for the school, as is hand washing. However they are taking the recent incident a time to reiterate its importance.
"We had some nursing students come in and do a procedure with us on Thursday teaching the kids songs of how long to wash their hands, making sure they're getting completely clean,” said Harkey.
While Hannah hadn't gone to school since the infection, the news hits close to home for area parents. The Gaston Health Department said there is reason to be concerned. E. coli has a 10 day incubation period, so it is possible more cases could arise through the end of the week.
Health Department experts said the infection is highly transmissible, so with the smallest amount a person can become infected.
"It's fecal oral, so if your hands touch something with E. coli on it and you touch your mouth, or if E. coli gets on any food you eat, drink, that's the way it gets transmitted,” said Brian Lackey, a member of the communicable disease team at the Gaston Health Department.
According to a Facebook page set up by Hannah Roberts' family, she has been moved to the ICU where she has had a blood transfusion and is getting ready to go on dialysis. Representatives with the health department are asking anyone who thinks they have symptoms of E. coli to see their health care provider immediately.