State investigating E.coli infections in Sisseton

Elisa Sand

The South Dakota Department of Health is investigating several reports of E.coli infections in Sisseton.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton said the Department of Health was first notified last week by a local physician or hospital after an E.coli infection was confirmed.

“We don’t have a single source that’s been identified at this point,” Clayton said.

While several people mentioned going to the Sisseton swimming pool, he said, there’s no confirmed link.

“We’ve been in contact with the local operator,” Clayton said. “Local samples have tested safe.”

According to Sisseton city offices, the pool is managed by a local nonprofit group. The president of that group is Dr. David Staub, a physician in Sisseton.

Staub said the pool has remained open since all water samples taken this summer have been normal.

“The health department is in full control and investigating everyone,” Staub said.

Clayton said E.coli has an incubation period of three to four days. The bacteria is found in animal intestines. It can be transmitted through contaminated food or water, he said.

“Most often what we can see are cases associated with cattle exposure or contamination of food items,” he said.

Because E.coli is found in cattle manure, he said, it can also run into lakes and streams.

Clayton said E.coli bacteria can cause mild to severe symptoms, some of which can lead to an infection that requires hospitalization. That’s happened in a couple of the Sisseton cases, he said.

Symptoms include diarrhea, bloody stools and abdominal pain, but no fever. In severe cases, he said, toxins can cause enough damage to shut down they kidneys.

While it’s up to each individual on when to seek medical care, Clayton said those experiencing bloody diarrhea might benefit from a diagnosis. For one thing, he said, antibiotics used to treat diarrhea can make symptoms of an E.coli infection worse.