Updated 10/13/2012 06:47 PM
Health Department says more cases of E. Coli linked to fair could develop
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The E. Coli outbreak took a deadly turn and killed a Gaston County toddler.
This caused a great sense of urgency for investigators to determine a specific source of the outbreak. They have confirmed that Cleveland County Fair is the common link between all cases.
In North Carolina, 14 children and six adults are known to be or have been affected by the outbreak. Six individuals have been or are currently hospitalized, all of whom are children.
The county case counts include: nine in Cleveland County, five in Gaston County, five in Lincoln County and one in York County, South Carolina.
Officials said all of the victims of the outbreak attended the Cleveland County Fair on or after October 1, but that is the only common link. Not all of the victims ate at the fair or went to the petting zoo.
Officials also said several of the people infected are in kidney failure and stress that this outbreak is nothing to take lightly.
Health director Christopher Dobbins issued a statement Saturday, saying "We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family. They, along with the entire Gaston County community, are in our thoughts at this unspeakably difficult time."
State Health Director Laura Gerald weighed in as well, saying "This is a tragic reminder of the seriousness of this kind of infection, especially in young children," and added anyone experiencing symptoms of E. Coli should see their doctor immediately.
Officials said fair organizers are fully cooperating with the investigation and the Health Department stressed that this infection is very contagious.
On Friday, News 14 Carolina spoke with the parents of another infected child, who said they washed their hands while at the fair and used hand sanitizer.
Now they said because of the health threat, their fair days are over.
Public Health Officials said it's critical for anyone with E. Coli symptoms, especially prolonged or bloody diarrhea to get to a doctor immediately.
The Health Department said it's possible more cases of E. Coli directly tied to the county fair could develop, well into the middle of the upcoming week..