Children and E.coli

February 5, 2016 10:57 pm

Do you know of any young children who have been very ill with E.coli O157:H7?

How did they catch it? How soon after it was caught was it diagnosed? How bad was it for the child and their family? 

As a rural mother, National Councillor Fiona Gower recognises the need to keep children safe. She knows the dangers of quad bikes, tractors, water and animals as well as other hazards seen daily. But what of those that can’t be seen? Such as minute organisms hiding in mud and water and in animal urine and faeces. These are the bugs that if not dealt with can cause major illness and in some cases irreparable damage and even death. How do we protect our families from them?

Rural Women NZ members are aware of Leptospirosis thanks to fundraising and awareness campaigns. But what about Salmonella and Rotovirus? The latest of the organisms to be targeted by awareness campaigns and research is E. coli O157:H7.

What is E.coli O157?

E.coli O157:H7 (STEC or VTEC) is an intestinal pathogen that causes severe outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness with symptoms ranging from diarrhea to severe bleeding from the bowel, to renal failure leading to transplants or dialysis. It has the most severe effect on children aged under 5 with 10% of cases hospitalised. There was one death in 2014.

The most common risk factors reported for VTEC/STEC infection cases in 2014 were contact with pets, farm animals and animal manure.

  • Kids on farms can be infected with E. coli O157:H7
  • Children under 5 years old most susceptible to serious illness.

This infection has been increasing since 1997 with 187 cases notified last year.

STEC infects cattle and sheep, however animals will appear healthy.

How to keep your children safe:

  • As a veterinarian, RWNZ National Councillor Liz Hancock stresses that hygiene awareness is really important with any of these bugs. Thorough hand washing when coming inside from farm and basic hygiene (leave dirty gumboots and overalls outside) will reduce the opportunity for infection.
  • Parents need to be aware of how to try to prevent their children picking up these bugs. At this time of the year it is important to encourage hand washing, with children spending time in calf sheds and pet day animals and plenty of mud and water around. There are lots of opportunity to pick up bugs by ingestion or through the eyes and nose or cuts and grazes.
  • If a child has diarrhoea and has been in contact with animals, ask a doctor to test for E. coli O157:H7. If your child is very unwell, ask them to check for all the diseases. It is better to push for the test and be negative, than miss it and your child end up in hospital with complications from the disease.
  • Doctors who look after rural patients need to be aware of these organisms and be prepared to test.

Rural Women NZ are interested in your E.coli O157:H7 stories (names and places will be changed to ensure confidentiality) please email [email protected]. 

Contact for enquiries:

Fiona Gower
National Vice President

Rural Women NZ
Ph: 027 428 3884
Email: [email protected]  

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