At last count, 11 children have been sickened in the Chambersburg, PA area by E. coli O157:H7, possibly from exposure to the bacteria at the Cowans Gap State Park lake. 8 of those children have gone on to develop kidney failure and hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS. At least one of those 8 remains hospitalized at Hershey Medical Center for treatment, likely including dialysis.
Thomas Hostetter, a press aide with the department, said yesterday that there are no new additional cases to report, but that additional updates will be provided when they become available.
The most recent case of HUS at the hospital is not being linked to Cowans Gap. There has been a total of eight patients with the syndrome since the outbreak was reported, with five reporting that they swam in the lake.
Shiga toxins released into the colon by E. coli bacteria are absorbed into intestinal capillaries, and from there into the systemic circulatory system. Once in the blood, shiga-toxins can initiate a chain reaction of events that results in the destruction of large amounts of red blood cells and platelets.
Victims can become badly anemic (loss of red blood cells) and thrombocytopenic (loss of platelets), and the cellular debris from this destructive process can accumulate, and cause microscopic blockages, in the kidney’s filtering units. Kidney failure, which is the third characteristic of hemolytic uremic syndrome, can lead to dialysis and even death. HUS happens in about 10% of those infected by E. coli O157:H7 or other shiga toxin-producing E. coli.