A potentially deadly strain of e-coli spreads in Harvey County.
"Unfortunately, now we have one new case and we currently have two children that are currently in the hospital," said Skip Cowan with the Harvey County Health Department. Of the two children in the hospital, one got sick just last week and one has been on dialysis for almost a month now.
Health Department investigators say it's been frustrating trying to figure out how this particular strain of e-coli reached its young victims.
"Not totally sure what did cause it," said Cowan. "We do not think it was food related at this time."
Investigators have spent weeks trying to figure out how the children got infected with a potentially deadly strain of e-coli that attacks the kidneys, causing something called hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS.
"The kidney can't stop that and it just,ultimately, it tries to fight it with the red blood cells and it just can't," said Cowan. That causes symptoms like bloody diarrhea or urine, vomiting, cramps and unexplained bleeding or bruises around the nose or mouth. Complications are serious, too, including kidney failure, coma, and stroke.
In Harvey County they know when and, probably, where the infections started.
"It started in the second week of May. There was a play date that happened here in the county," said Cowan. "And then, a couple days after it happened, people started getting sick."
But repeated tests on everything they can think of have turned up no answers as to what caused the infections.
"So we're retesting them just to make sure that they're not the source," said Cowan of those at the play date. "You might not be sick or symptomatic, but it's still there."
They do know all the children infected attended the same church in Newton.
"Now it is ironic they all do go to the church, but as of right now we don't have any reason to think it has anything to do with the church," said Cowan.
The church is doing everything it can to prevent any more spread of the bacteria, sterilizing all equipment in the children's areas, cancelling its Bible School this week, and beginning its summer break from Sunday School classes early. Meanwhile, they're asking for prayers for the children in the hospital.
"They've been on dialysis for awhile," said Cowan. "And it's very unfortunate. I don't know. We hope it works out."
The Harvey County Health Department is hoping results from it's latest round of tests will provide some answers to this mystery. Those results are expected back from labs in Topeka and Manhattan by the end of this week.
E-coli is spread through human and animal waste. Doctors say the best way to prevent it is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water any time you use the restroom, clean up after animals or children, or start to handle food.