State health regulators say a Greenwood daycare has agreed to close for further testing, as at least eight cases of E.coli bacteria have now been linked back to the center. A toddler has died from complications of the bacteria while two other people remain hospitalized.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said laboratory testing has confirmed the cases linked back to the Leaning Vine daycare. The agency also issued a public health consent order it reached with Learning Vine that requires the daycare close for further tests.
“Our primary concern is protecting the health and safety of the community,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said in a statement. “We continue to work closely with the daycare facility and community partners to identify the source of the contamination and stop the spread of the infection.”
There are hundreds of E.coli strains. Most are harmless and are part of the human digestive tract. But the particular strain of E.coli detected, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) can cause severe illness. State regulators began looking into the Greenwood outbreak when 2-year-old Myles Mayfield died from hemolytic uremic syndrome after becoming infected with E.coli. Parents at nearby Springfield Elementary School received notices of the potential exposure last week.
Bell added that there is “no evidence of ongoing transmission of the infection” within the daycare. However, the center will remain closed until all staff and children are tested and the facility sufficiently cleaned. DHEC said it has already interviewed more than 50 people as they work to identify who else may have been exposed.
DHEC has not said if the two other hospitalizations were also children.
Learning Vine’s owners say they are “heartbroken” about what has happened and said they called in professional cleaners to sterilize the center since they received the first indication that a contamination might exist. “The Learning Vine has gone beyond what has been asked by DHEC to make sure our children and families are safe and healthy,” the daycare said in a release to news outlets.
The best way to avoid STEC infections is to wash your hands often using soap and warm water after using the bathroom, before eating and when changing diapers. DHEC urges parents to keep children suffering from diarrhea at home until they recover.