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article image6-year-old boy dies suddenly from mysterious E. Coli infection

By Yukio Strachan     Jun 6, 2012 in Health
A Massachusetts town is in shock after a 6 year old boy, with an infectious smile, died suddenly of E. coli poisoning after eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Owen Carrignan passed away on May 26 from complications of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), a disease health officials say is associated with E. coli, KSDK reports.
The Elmwood Street first grade student played soccer on Saturday, and a few days later, he was dead.
"They brought him to the hospital on Monday and it just progressively got worse from there," said Todd Carrignan, Owen's uncle.
"It should never happen, you know? A 6-year-old boy full of life," Owen's uncle added.
According to the State Department of Public Health, Owen died from an E. coli infection -- most likely from something he ate.
"We can't think of anything he ate that the rest of the kids didn't eat. And why it would just affect him, I don't know. But we have no idea," Todd Carrignan said.
Derek S. Brindisi, Worcester's director of public health, said the state laboratory confirmed that the bacterium E. coli 0157:H7 was detected. A public health nurse is investigating to determine the source of the contamination and how the boy was exposed.
“Right now we're treating this as an isolated food-borne illness, but it still has to be determined,” Mr. Brindisi said.
No other related cases of food poisoning have been reported.
According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, E. coli is a large and diverse group of bacteria.
Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make people sick. Some kinds of E. coli such as O157: H7 can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses. In a small number of people, the strain of E. coli O157: H7 can cause HUS, which affects the kidneys and blood-clotting systems.
E. coli must be swallowed to cause infection, according to health officials. This can happen if a person eats or drinks something that contains these germs and is not properly cooked.
Carrignan, a healthy, active boy, had just eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before he told his mother he had a tummy ache.
The most common food source is ground beef because the grinding spreads the germs through the meat. These germs have also been found in raw milk, roast beef, apple cider, salami and sometimes vegetables fertilized with cow manure. The incubation period is usually three to four days after the exposure, but may be as short as one day or as long as 10 days.
“We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Owen Carrignan and offer our deepest sympathy to Owen's family,” Mr. Brindisi said.
His mother, Michelle (Girouard) Carrignan, misses her little boy, and has a message for all parents.
"He's my baby I just cherished every moment," she told New England Cable News. "I would say just enjoy your kids... you just never know when it's going to be the last time."
He died Saturday at UMass Memorial Medical Center — University Campus in Worcester.
More about Owen Carrignan, E coli, State Department of Public Health
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