Two Kids Fighting E. Coli Infection After Separately Visiting Oklahoma Lake

Thursday, August 29th 2013, 11:04 pm

A weekend at the lake may be to blame for sending two Green Country children to the hospital.

The health department says it hasn't found evidence the bacteria was related to lake exposure, however the two families, who were not at the lake together, say the water is the only common denominator.

Four-year-old Kilee King is feeling better. She's back to being silly with her big brother and their friend--a far cry from how she felt a few weeks ago.

On August 7, two days after the family spent the weekend at Blue Bill Point campground on Fort Gibson lake, she was not feeling well, at all.

"She was crying and holding her stomach and she couldn't really stand up all the way. she was just kind of folded over," said Kilee's mom, Tara Pope. "She's usually a trooper, but that kind of pain, I knew something serious was going on."

Kilee had to be rushed to a Tulsa hospital.

"It was the scariest moment of my life," Pope said.

Kilee stayed overnight and was diagnosed the next day.

"They confirmed it was Shiga Toxin producing E. coli," Pope said.

The Centers for Disease Control says the bacteria can be spread through raw milk, undercooked beef or contaminated lettuce. The CDC says people can also be infected by swallowing lake water, which can be tainted with animal feces from runoff.

Pope said the doctor never confirmed the exact cause, but told her it was likely the lake.

"The only thing that they could think was, whenever they get their hands wet or something and then they touch their face and everything, and then it goes to their mouth or wherever," Pope said.

Eldon Yoder, 9, was at the lake with his family that same weekend as Kilee, though the two families weren't there together.

Eldon's aunt said he's fighting the same strain of E. coli, only it's hit him much harder. His aunt said Eldon developed a potentially life-threatening complication, causing his kidneys to shut down.

Eldon has spent the past two weeks in the hospital on life support and dialysis. Thursday night, relatives said the machines had been turned off and he's doing better, though they said there's no guarantee that Eldon won't need dialysis again.

As for Pope, she said her family is going to be taking a break from going to the lake.

"The lake carries that kind of stuff. And no matter what I do, the kids are always going to get their hands wet and touch their face," Pope said. "So, probably going to spend a lot more time at home in the swimming pool, then going to the lake and getting the lake water."

Fort Gibson Lake is an Army Corps of Engineers lake. The Corps says it tests the designated swimming areas five times each summer, and there have been no elevated levels of bacteria.

However, Blue Bill Point, is not a designated swim area, so it hasn't been tested.

While the health department says it doesn't believe the bacteria came from the lake, it wouldn't say how it was spread.

The health department has confirmed only one case in Northeast Oklahoma, but said, when it comes to reportable diseases, there can be some lag time between diagnoses and reporting.

The department said it's possible another case could be reported.