Two students in Lodi’s Reese Elementary School’s combined second and third-grade class were confirmed on Monday to have become infected with the E. coli bacteria last week. The students were taken to the hospital when they first showed signs of becoming ill.
School principal Gary Odell realized something was going on last Tuesday. Feb. 24. “It came up a week ago. The secretary noticed that four students were out sick and one had gone to the hospital over the weekend. When the three others began showing symptoms, the nurse contacted (the San Joaquin County Department of Public Health),” Odell said.
Odell said the health department investigated the food services department, and the school cafeteria was given a clean bill of health. The bacteria was not coming from the school’s kitchen or the cafeteria. It is really not known where the first child got the infection because there are so many sources of a potential infection. It is just unusual for this many children from the same school to become infected in such a short time.
“You can get it from so many different sources. A lot of times you never find out where you got it from,” said Donna Aarons, a Lodi Unified School District nurse. E. coli is contracted from ingesting fecal matter, so hand-washing is a big help in keeping safe. But the sources of E.coli infection are varied. They include contaminated food, water, contact with animals, unpasteurized milk, unpasteurized apple cider, swallowing contaminated lake water, petting zoos, and using a restroom and not washing your hands, to name a few.
Parents weren’t notified of the outbreak until Monday evening after letters were sent home with their children. The principal explained the reason for the lateness of the notification, saying that once the health department took over, they had to follow their guidelines. This meant there had to be two confirmed cases before the public was notified to avoid a panic.