East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has treated several children, over the last ten days, for illnesses caused by E.coli bacteria. The Knox County Health Department is currently investigating possible sources of the bacteria.

E.coli bacteria are found in the environment, foods and intestines of people and animals. Sometimes, when ingested, the bacteria can cause an infection resulting in severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and kidney failure. In severe cases, E.Coli infection can cause death. Children experiencing these symptoms should receive medical care as soon as possible.

People can be exposed to the bacteria from a number of sources. The following are some of the most common.

  • Raw milk (milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria)
  • Undercooked meat
  • Unwashed, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables
  • Animal feces
  • Contaminated bodies of water


Parents and caregivers can help prevent E.coli infection by taking the following steps.

  • Avoid consuming raw milk or dairy products made from raw milk.
  • Cook meat to an internal temperature recommended by the FDA.
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash hands well before eating.
  • Don’t drink the water from a pool, lake or river.


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.