The Arkansas Health Department was called to investigate a confirmed case of E. coli after a student at the Benton County Sunshine School in Rogers became ill, school officials said Tuesday.
"We had a parent report to us that their child had been diagnosed with E. coli and so following protocol, we called the Health Department to report that and to confirm that it was accurate," said Cyndi Bilyeu, the school’s executive director.
"E. coli is basically a bacteria, it's normally found in the flora, meaning in the normal bacteria and fungal elements in our digestive tract and at any given time maybe even our skin," said Dr. Tammy Tucker, a general physician in Bentonville. "So it's not necessarily a bad thing but there are strains that are bad."
On Monday health department officials, including an environmental account specialist, examined the school’s food preparation areas and classroom and found “no deficiencies,” according to Bilyeu.
“At this time we have no reason to believe the infection originated at the school,” read a note Bilyeu sent to parents.
Bilyeu said this is the only confirmed case of E. coli but the school is taking extra precautions.
“We are taking all necessary precautions including extra cleaning in the building, according to recommendations of the health department,” Bilyeu wrote.
All students and staff with related symptoms are being sent home, the note states.
According to a release from the Arkansas Health Department, it's not uncommon for kids under the age of five to have a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, in which the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail.
"The people who don't wash their hands maybe after using the bathroom or something like that might touch a doorknob or touch someone else, shake hands, prepare food, are more likely to pass bacteria on whether it's the good strain or the bad strain of E. coli," said Dr. Tucker.
The school is located at 3400 Woods Lane in Rogers and serves children with special needs.