Hundreds of Greenwood County parents received letters on Tuesday warning their children may have been exposed to E. coli at school.
Springfield Elementary School started calling and texting parents about the possible exposure on Monday.
Greenwood County Coroner Sonny Cox said a 2-year-old boy died from kidney failure after getting an E. coli infection on Sunday.
There may also be at least one other child currently suffering from the infection.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Dept. of Health and Environmental Control updated its website saying its investigation “is focused on the close contacts of confirmed and suspect STEC [E. coli] cases. No information suggests a risk to the broader community at this time.”
Teresa Slaughter said she wanted to celebrate her little girl’s kindergarten graduation Tuesday, not worry about her health.
“I mean that’s kind of dangerous. That ain’t nothing to play with,” said Slaughter. “Especially when it comes to the kids, you can’t take chances with that.”
“Well, we take all the precautions that we can. Yesterday, the entire school was sanitized. So we make sure that that happens. And of course we’re going to stay in contact with DHEC and collaborate with them,” said Greenwood School District 50 spokesman Johnathan Graves.
Greenville Health System pediatric infectious diseases specialist Dr. Joshua Brownlee said parents don’t need to be overly concerned.
“I wouldn’t stay up at night worrying about it,” said Brownlee.
He said fatal E. coli infections are not unheard of in the upstate, but they’re not common.
“No, not at all. The vast majorities of E. coli infections are never even recognized, they’re so mild,” said Brownlee.
He said frequent, thorough hand washing is the most important thing you can teach your children to protect them. It’s the most common way E. coli is passed along from person-to-person.
“Sitting next to somebody at school, sharing pencils, drinking glasses, that sort of thing generally will not result in transmission of the organism,” said Brownlee.
He said the most distinguishing symptom of E. coli versus an upset stomach is bloody diarrhea. That usually develops around day three of the infection.
In 2011, Honea Path Elementary School experienced a major outbreak of a different stomach bug called Shigella. More than 130 students and teachers got sick.
Brownlee said that illness tends to be more easily transferred from person-to-person than E. coli, and outbreaks tend to be more extensive.