Officials with the Snohomish Health District announced the temporary closing of a Monroe preschool after two schoolkids were hospitalized due to complications from a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection.

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

The school closing is the Monroe Montessori School located at 733 Village Way in Monroe, Washington.

The cases have prompted health officials to get more than 60 potentially exposed children and staff members tested.

“The exact source of contamination in E. coli can be very difficult to identify, but at this point we believe the children were likely exposed to livestock near their home,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director of the Health District. “The school has been cooperating fully as we work with the families and improve existing policies and procedures to prevent these incidents from happening in the future.”

“Our thoughts go out to the families affected by this exposure,” said Department of Early Learning Assistant Director, Frank Ordway. “Child health and safety is our highest priority. We plan to comply and assist with the Department of Health and the Snohomish Health District as they work to get one of our exceptional early learning providers back to serving this community’s children.”

The symptoms of STEC infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than 101˚F). Most people get better within 5–7 days as infections can be mild, but others can be severe or even life-threatening.Young children and the elderly are more likely to experience serious illness. People with weakened immune systems, including pregnant women, are also at risk for serious illness.

Around 5–10 percent of those who are diagnosed with E. coli O157 infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Clues that a person is developing HUS include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. Persons with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems. Most persons with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.

Handwashing is the most effective way to reduce chances of getting sick. Adults should supervise young children to make sure they don’t put their hands in their mouths and ensure that their hands are washed thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom.