State health officials in Oklahoma are investigating a spike in a deadly strain of E. coli. At least a dozen people, who have attended agricultural events around the state, were hospitalized as of late Thursday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Health professionals say they are still in the early stages of their investigation. As of late Thursday, officials had not located a source. One of the patients, Connor Sneary, is fighting hard at OU Children's Hospital, according to family friends.
"He's still in ICU in critical condition," said friend Tina Baker who has been in contact with Connor's mother.
Connor has a form of E. coli that the family believes may have been contracted at an agricultural event at the Oklahoma State Fair Grounds. Investigators say that is a possibility.
"It does appear to be clustered in groups of people that have attended various agricultural events," said state health official Lauri Smithee, Ph.D.
Smithee is the director of the state's acute disease service and has been busy looking for answers for the current spike in E. coli cases. Smithee says Shiga toxin-producing E. coli is the main concern. Mild to severe diarrhea that may be accompanied with blood are possible symptoms. The progression of the illness may harm the kidneys, according to Smithee.
Baker works for the Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI). She says blood donations have helped Connor in the hospital. Besides prayers, Baker says donating for Connor is a great way to help.
"Insurance just does not pay very much when it comes to blood products," said Baker.
Smithee and her colleagues are scrutinizing over 12 high-risk cases that have been reported since the middle of March 2014. Officials say they hope to identify a source in the next few days. Experts say the best way to prevent the spread of the illness is to wash your hands, especially after handling animals. Also, thoroughly clean all fruits, vegetables and meats.
The OBI will hold a blood drive for Connor Sneary at the women's building of the Woods County Fair Grounds in Alva on Tuesday, April 8 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. People may donate directly to Connor's cause, or most any patient's cause, at any blood drive sponsored by OBI.