State health officials are looking for connections in seven reported cases of kidney failure commonly caused by a type of bacteria sometimes found in food.
A total of seven cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome have been reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. These cases have not been confirmed yet, according to KDHE spokeswoman Sara Belfry.
“We continue working with local health departments as well as hospitals to confirm these cases,” Belfry said in an email.
The seven cases are in Sedgwick, Harvey, Cowley and Nemaha counties. Four of the patients remain hospitalized. Belfry says privacy laws prevent her from giving any information about the age, gender or condition of the patients.
Wesley Medical Center in Wichita confirmed that three children are, or were, treated there recently for hemolytic uremic syndrome.
“I can confirm that we treat patients with hemolytic uremic syndrome. I can confirm that we have had some in the recent time period,” said Joann Paul, Wesley’s Director of Quality, Infection Prevention and Safety.
Paul said the cases appear to have been caused by E. coli infection, which is the most common — but not the only — cause of hemolytic uremic syndrome. A toxin produced by the bacteria causes cells to break down, resulting in micro blood clots, which can clog the kidneys and sometimes other organs.
The potentially deadly condition most often affects children and the elderly. Cooking meat thoroughly and washing hands before handling food are the best ways to prevent the infection.