STANFORD — Two kindergarten students from Stanford Elementary School who suffered E. colipoisoning remain in the intensive care unit at the University of Kentucky’s Children’s Hospital this morning while local, state and federal officials continue their efforts to determine the source of the contamination.
Both children are from the same class.
A third kindergartener, who is a twin of one of hospitalized students, also has suspected E. coli poisoning but has not been hospitalized and is “recuperating nicely” at home, said Diane Miller, director of the Lincoln County Health Department.
Ronnie Deatherage, director of operations for Lincoln County Schools, said he was meeting with a federal Department of Agriculture official this morning “to come up with a strategy to attack this thing, to figure out what the root source is.”
Environmentalists with the local health department collected information from the school’s cafeteria on Thursday, including a history of the food served there over the last two weeks and also conducted an inspection, which turned up no violations, said health department nurse Jackie McMurtry.
“There is no indication it’s coming from the cafeteria,” Deatherage said.
The school system sent home notes to parents explaining the situation on Thursday. Overall attendance this morning at Stanford Elementary was at 89 percent, compared to 96 percent on Thursday. Kindergarten attendance dropped to 74 percent today compared to 88 percent on Thursday, said Bruce Smith, director of pupil personnel.
Superintendent Karen Hatter speculated today’s significant drop-off in attendance was due to parents keeping their children home out of precaution. There have been no reports of possible E. coli-related sickness outside the three kindergarteners, Hatter said.
McMurtry said the E. coli bacteria can be spread through tainted meats, most often hamburger, along with fruits and vegetables and unpasturized juice and milk. Contact with a contaminated area and handling pets and farm animals can also be sources of the bacteria.
Washing hands thoroughly and often, and not sharing food, are effective preventative measures, Miller said.
Symptoms of E. coli poisoning include bloody or watery diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever. It can take up to eight days for the symptoms to occur after becoming contaminated, and the sickness can last up to two weeks, Miller said. If symptoms develop, parents should immediately take their child to a doctor and withhold them from school for 48 hours, she said.
Local officials will participate in a conference call with state health officials later to day to share information and determine what else, if anything, should be done to limit further exposure to the bacteria.
“We’ll have the weekend to see how it goes,” Hatter said.