State officials will allow an East Tennessee child care center to reopen on Tuesday as two children are still in serious condition at Children’s Hospital after an E. coli outbreak.
The Tennessee Department of Human Services announced Monday afternoon it is removing its safety plan for Kids Place Inc. on Millertown Pike in Knox County, allowing them to reopen on Tuesday morning. They say the decision was made after detailed conversations with the Knox County Health Department.
The center has also agreed to a series of precautions to prevent further outbreaks, including staff education and a new policy requiring children to remove their shoes before entering the Early Childhood Center, which includes the Baby House, where all the E. coli cases happened. Kids Place says the Baby House will remain closed for the rest of the week as an added precaution.
The E. coli outbreak led to the Tennessee Department of Human Services ordering the daycare closed.
A Children’s Hospital spokesperson said the hospital has six patients being treated, two of whom are in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. That’s down from four last week. The hospital has treated 11 patients in the last two weeks who tested positive for E. coli.
The health department said more than 10 children became sick from E. coli bacteria. The health department said the majority of the sick children drank milk from a local cow-share dairy, French Broad Farm. Others attended A Kids Place, Inc.
“While it would be rare, it’s possible that our community is experiencing two unrelated E. coli clusters at the same time,” said the health department on Monday. “The investigation is ongoing.”
The health department is working with the farm to help them restore operations, but a timetable for them top reopen has not yet been determined.
“Due to possible contamination with E. coli 0157 and out of an abundance of caution, KCHD continues to advise the public not to consume raw milk or any other unpasteurized products they may have received from this farm prior to it suspending distribution last week,” said a health department spokesperson.
Read more: What you need to know about E. coli
According to the Knox County Health Department, they received a report from the daycare about a child who might have E. coli. Over the next few days, the health department began receiving reports from labs and doctor’s offices about children with E. coli.
Three other children were identified as having an E. coli infection, according to the daycare, but none of them required hospitalization.
Daycare administrators said they have dogs, goats and ducks contained on the property and are having agricultural experts examine the animals.
On Friday, six children were in Children’s Hospital. Four of those children, under the age of 4, were in serious condition.
Kathleen Killen with the Knox County Health Department said it’s possible for 1,800 E. coli bacteria to fit on the head of a pin at one time but it only takes about 10 to make someone sick.
The department reports on average there are 19 cases of E. coli reported every year.
Dr. Martha Buchanan with the health department says symptoms of E. coli can be serious.
“The diarrhea is watery, and bloody. Sometimes people have fever, sometimes people have vomiting. But mostly people have just crampy, watery, bloody diarrhea. And it can get much more serious than that,” said Buchanan.
Buchanan says serious E. coli cases could lead to kidney failure.
To prevent E. coli, Buchanan says hygiene and proper food preparation are key, including washing hands, cooking food properly, and knowing food sources.
Children and the elderly are at greatest risk for severe illness or death from E.coli infection. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov or www.tn.gov/health.