The Multnomah County Health Department is investigating multiple cases of Escherichia coli E. coli O157, also called E. coli O157.

E. coli/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
E. coli/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

As of Monday, six people associated with Montessori of Alameda preschool have laboratory-confirmed Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli  or E. coli.  One is an adult and five are preschoolers. All of the confirmed cases have occurred in one classroom at a Portland preschool. One child has been hospitalized. Case finding is ongoing. Three have been typed so far and have E. coli O157.

“We believe at this point, risk to the general public is low as we have no reported cases outside this location in Multnomah County,’’ said Dr. Paul Lewis, Multnomah County Health Officer. “We are communicating directly with parents at this school  because of the serious nature of this disease.’’

The E. coli O157 bacteria causes diarrhea and can also produce a toxin that damages blood vessels, particularly in the kidneys.

Most people become ill from eating contaminated food which has not been fully cooked. The bacteria can also spread from person to person, especially in families and in childcare facilities.

The cause of the outbreak has not yet been determined. The Health Department is investigating possible sources including any connection to the national recall of  I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter and related products. The product has been implicated in 16 E. coli cases in nine states, including two children who are siblings in Clackamas County.

Symptoms of the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli  include diarrhea which can be bloody, abdominal pain or cramping, nausea and vomiting and low-grade fever. Most people get better within five to seven days, but others can have severe or life-threatening infections.

“Since serious complications can occur, it is important to seek medical attention when suspected,” said Dr.Lewis.

The Health  Department is working closely with school leadership to implement infection control measures at the school to prevent the spread of illness. This includes stepped up-monitoring of any illness and keeping children with any symptoms at home until they are tested.  Oregon Administrative Rules require children with a positive test for E. coli O157 or the toxin made by the E. coli O157 bacteria — called Shiga toxin — to have additional testing prior to returning to any school or childcare.

Parents with any questions about any symptoms should contact their child’s healthcare provider. The Oregon Health Authority is also advising anyone with the recalled I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter or I.M. Granola product to immediately return the product to the store where it was purchased or throw it away.