Day care to reopen; 6 children remain hospitalized
Martha Buchanan of the Knox County . Health Dept. Gives an update on the recent E. Coli outbreak.
Saul Young, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
More than 10 local children recently made sick by the same strain of E. coli bacteria appear to be divided into two unrelated groups with no overlap, which is “very uncommon,” Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said Monday.
A “majority” of the children fell ill after drinking raw milk from a local cow-share dairy, French Broad Farm, while a smaller group of children became sick after attending a Mascot day care center called Kids Place Inc., according to the health department.
East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has treated 11 children, all under age 4, for E. coli-related illness in the past two weeks. There have been no deaths related to the outbreak, and the county saw no new cases over the weekend, Buchanan said.
As of Monday, six children remained at the children’s hospital, with two children in the pediatric intensive care unit in serious condition, according to hospital spokeswoman Erica Estep. Two children who were in the intensive care unit were moved to a different part of the hospital after their conditions improved.
Some of the children who were ill were treated by their physicians and not hospitalized, Buchanan said. She declined to give exact numbers.
Meanwhile, Kids Place has been cleared to reopen. The day care center said in a statement it will resume “most operations” Tuesday but plans to keep the “Baby House,” the section of the center where children were ill, closed until June 18 out of an “abundance of caution.”
On June 5, Kids Place closed the Baby House on the Knox County Health Department’s recommendation but kept programs for other age groups operational.
Health department officials were concerned the children became sick after being exposed, whether directly or indirectly, to fecal matter from goats kept at the facility, Buchanan said.
On Friday morning, the Tennessee Department of Human Services said it had actually issued a safety plan requiring Kids Place to close its entire Millertown Pike campus and had only Thursday learned that the center “had not … ceased operations throughout the entire facility.”
More on the E. coli outbreak
► Five things you should know to keep your kids safe
► What is ‘raw milk’?
Also on Friday, the health department lifted its closure order for Kids Place, saying the facility followed the appropriate steps to reduce the spread of E. coli, such as environmental cleaning, education of the staff and completion of inspections. But the day care center still had to receive similar approval from the state, which it did Monday.
Kids Place agreed to “a series of precautions including staff education and a new policy requiring children to remove their shoes before entering the Early Childhood Center which includes the Baby House where all E. coli cases at the center have occurred,” Sky Arnold, spokesman for the Department of Human Services, said in a statement.
As for French Broad Farm, which suspended distribution last week, it’s not clear when operations may resume. The health department said it collected milk, environmental and manure samples from the farm for testing, and the “timeline for results is unknown.”
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