Officials close investigation into E. coli outbreak at the University of Arkansas

Public health officials have closed an investigation into an E. Coli outbreak at the University of Arkansas without finding the source of the pathogen.

University officials said the Arkansas Department of Health reported five confirmed and 37 probable patients in the outbreak. On Sept 25, university officials said more than 3,200 people had been surveyed during the investigation.

The outbreak was reported on Sept. 1, with no patients being identified after Aug. 25. Four confirmed patients were hospitalized, but two have been released.

The residences of the sick people were not revealed, but the health department has reported that “it has no reason to believe the outbreak is connected to the university’s public dining facilities.” Some of the patients are residents of sorority houses.

Investigators from the state have not reported what laboratory testing of foods or locations has revealed.

“The university has increased its surface cleaning and sanitizing protocols to help mitigate the spread,” according to a statement from university officials earlier this month.

About E. coli infections
Food that is contaminated with E. Coli may not look, smell or taste bad. Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications.

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, tiredness, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. 

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients. 

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other severe and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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