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E. coli infections and toddler's death shut down South Carolina day care

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Day care shuts down after eight E. coli infections, including one death

After a total of eight children were stricken with E. coli, their day care has been shut down — temporarily, at least.

Out of the eight children, one child didn't make it. Myles Mayfield, a 2-year-old boy, died as a result of hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a complication of an E. coli infection that can sometimes be fatal. All of the children attended the Learning Vine Child Development Center in Greenwood, South Carolina, and the little boy's death prompted the state to get involved. The day care chose to close its doors voluntarily until the state completes its investigation on the bacteria, how it was spread and if anyone else is at risk.

The center has hired professional cleaners and while testing has revealed that at least four of the cases came from the exact same strain, they have yet to identify the specific source.

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"The Learning Vine's thoughts and prayers are with our families who have been affected by the recent events," a statement from the Learning Vine reads. "Each and every child at the Learning Vine is a part of our family, and we are heartbroken that we have lost a member and others are sick."

Unfortunately, children can and do become sick when they are at day care, although it's rarely with a deadly result. I'll never forget my second child's experience in daycare — a highly-regarded center that we used briefly and just for a few hours a week when he was around 3 or 4 years old. He started having severe tummy issues, and we spent a lot of time testing him for different things before the doctor finally found out he had a parasite called cryptosporidium, which is commonly spread in child care centers.

While our story has a happy ending, getting infected with E. coli can have a much more tragic ending, as little Myles experienced. According to the CDC, E. coli is spread through the fecal-oral route — in other words, you get E. coli by eating poop (generally microscopic amounts).

Where can you find E. coli-infected poop particles? You can find them in undercooked beef, raw/unpasteurized milk and untreated water. You can also pick up E. coli from petting zoos, consuming food prepared by someone who didn't wash their hands, a dirty diaper, swallowing lake water and contaminated raw fruits and veggies.

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How do you avoid getting sick? Wash, wash, wash your hands, especially before preparing food, after using the restroom, after changing a diaper and after contact with animals and their environments. Properly cook meat, avoid raw or unpasteurized milk and apple juice and avoid swallowing water when you swim.

Investigators may never uncover the true source of the E. coli infection in this terrible tragedy, but hopefully it will never happen again at this child care center, if they do re-open.

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