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Source of deadly E. coli infection in Wright County remains unknown

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E. coli
This photo taken at the NDSU Electron Microscopy Facility shows E. coli bacteria magnified 100,000 times, attaching to each other as a biofilm starts to form. Researchers have discovered a way to disrupt the attachment process, reducing the virulence and antibiotic resistance of E. coli.
Courtesy of NDSU

State health officials say they are unable to find the source of an E. coli infection that killed a 3-year-old Wright County girl last month and severely sickened her older brother. 

The strain of bacteria Kade and Kallan Maresh contracted produced a toxin that caused them to suffer hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious form of kidney failure. Kallan died July 16, a month before her 4th birthday. 

According to his Caring Bridge page, Kade continues to recover. In an Aug. 5 post, his mother, Tyffani Maresh, said her son's lab tests are "all still trending in the right direction."

Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologists say they could not find a specific source of the bacteria, even after checking typical sources such as food and swimming facilities. 

In a statement, public health veterinarian Joni Scheftel said investigators also conducted extensive tests of animals at a petting zoo the children had visited. 

Scheftel said there have been no additional E. coli infections involving the same strain of the bacteria. 

The health department says the children were infected with a strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli known as STEC O145, as well as an undetermined type of STEC.

Officials say this type of bacteria can be found in food and animals, even those that are healthy. 

They point out that it's important to follow everyday precautions such as cooking meat thoroughly, and washing hands after using the toilet and being in contact with animals.