by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:
CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. - The N.C. Department of Health announced Monday that the number of E. coli cases linked to the Cleveland County Fair has jumped to 38 and includes the son of the Cleveland County sheriff.
The cases are spread across seven counties. Cleveland County has the highest number with 18.
Sheriff Alan Norman said he hopes his son can return to school by the end of the week. They are taking care of him at home, making sure he stays hydrated.
Other patients, some with more severe symptoms, are at CMC.
Monday night, the Gaston County Board of Health meeting began with a silent moment of prayer for 38 people who have been sickened by the bacteria outbreak. The moment was especially in memory of 2-year-old Gage Lefevers, who died from the outbreak Friday.
Gaston County health officials said they expect the number to go up because they are including patients who have less severe symptoms of E. coli.
"We do expect the numbers to increase based on the expanded definition," Steve Eaton, assistant health director at Gaston County Health Department.
One of the new cases is 13-year-old Alex Norman.
"He ... still has a long way to go in order to regain his full strength," Norman said of his son.
He said Alex went to the Cleveland County fair six times with his local chapter of Future Farmers of America. He had mild symptoms on Wednesday but by Thursday night, Norman said his son had severe stomach cramps and other symptoms. The next morning, the family took him to the doctor to get tested.
"We just request prayers for my family and for every victim's family right now," Norman said. "Hopefully if everything goes well within the next three or four days, we will beat E. coli."
Health officials don't expect any new direct cases after Wednesday, which marks the end of the E. coli incubation period.
But the bacteria can be spread by physical contact if proper steps, like hand-washing and sanitizing, are not taken. That's why officials are asking anyone who attended the fair and has symptoms to get tested immediately.
Eaton said they have not determined what exactly at the fair caused the outbreak.
He said they are interviewing patients as well as people who attended and didn't get sick to try to figure that out.
Hannah Roberts is a 5-year-old who has been fighting E. coli at Levine Children's hospital.
Hannah's family said she recieved her first dialysis treatment today.
For more information about E. coli, click here.