Parents Joseph and Tyffani Maresh rushed to the emergency room on July 9 when their children suddenly came down with nonstop bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

According to CBS Minnesota, the siblings were diagnosed with a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria and treated at the hospital.

The family wrote on their GoFundMe page that they spent the next two days in and out of the emergency room until Kade, 5, and Kallan, 4, were both diagnosed with kidney failure on Wednesday.

Sadly, the toxin from the bacteria spread to Kallan’s brain and heart. After a week in University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital, she passed away.

Screenshot/CBS Minnesota

While her brother, Kade, continues to recover in the hospital, health officials told the Star Tribune that they are investigating where the children might have been exposed to the deadly strain of E. coli.

GoFundMe

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Escherichia coli — known for short as E. coli — is a large category of bacteria that can be found on food, animals, people, and in the environment. While most strains of the bacteria are harmless, some can cause extreme illness.

The specific strain the children contracted is currently being investigated, but health officials told the Star Tribune that they believe it was a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli strain (STEC).

The CDC reports that STECs are responsible for an estimated 265,000 illnesses, an additional 3,600 hospitalizations, and 30 fatalities in the U.S. every year. The common symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, and often bloody stool. STECs are usually transmitted from infected food, water, people, animals, or the environment.

In order to reduce the risk of E. coli infection, the Mayo Clinic recommends:

  • Washing raw foods thoroughly to remove bacteria and dirt
  • Keeping raw foods separate from cooked foods to reduce risk of exposure
  • Cooking hamburger meat to 170 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cleaning kitchen counters, utensils, and cutting boards after contact with meat or produce
  • Always practicing clean hand sanitation after touching raw foods, animals, or other waste

Parents should take caution to wash children’s hands with soap and water after visiting a preschool or daycare, especially if there has been a recent outbreak.

The Minnesota Department of Health notes that young calves and cow excretion are often the main carriers of the E. coli virus.

In an “abundance of caution,” the petting zoo the family recently visited has taken its animals off display. Authorities are investigating to determine whether the petting zoo may have been the source.

The CDC reports that people rarely contract E. coli from petting zoos, but many people do report catching one of many illnesses while interacting at animal exhibits every year. It recommends washing hands often to avoid contamination.

If symptoms of E. coli are present, parents should seek the advice of a medical professional.

Caring Bridge

On Wednesday, Joseph and Tyffani wrote on Caring Bridge that Kade was still being treated in the hospital. His recent lab tests had shown that his red blood cells were under attack by the toxin produced by the E. coli strain:

This still feels like a nightmare we are waiting to wake up from.

They wrote that they missed holding their little girl and encouraged other parents to hold their children tight.

Dearly reached out to Tyffani for a comment, but she did not respond by the time of publication.

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