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Family confirms two southern Utah children dead from E. coli

HILDALE, Utah - The Southwest Utah Health Department is investigating an E. coli outbreak in Hildale, and family members confirm at least two young children have died.

The parents of 6-year-old Gabriella Fullerton of Hildale tell Fox 13 News their daughter died of kidney failure as a result of E. coli, and they say a young boy who is close friends with Gabriella and who lives in their housing complex is also deceased.

The family issued a statement thanking everyone for the support they've received after Gabriella's death.

"Our entire family and all of our friends are completely devastated at the loss of our little Gabriella. The family would like to thank everyone for the prayers, love, support, and donations from everyone. While we are grieving this tremendous loss we are trying to make sure that this does not happen to another child. Our hearts are also with the other child's family."

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department states they are investigating an outbreak of E. coli in the Hildale, Utah area. The department states the outbreak appears to be confined to a limited area with, "little or no risk to the larger community."

David Heaton, a spokesman for the health department, tells Fox 13 News they have tested the water in the area and are confident the water is not the source of the contamination.

“We’re pretty sure it’s not from the water," Heaton said. "The tests that we’ve done there have been clean every time. We’re looking at either exposure to an infected animal or to contaminated food, like food poisoning.”

The Fullerton family said a couple who lives in their complex have been discarding diapers in the yard, and some dogs have been getting into those diapers. Recently Gabriella and her mother began cleaning up that debris and came in contact with the dogs, and it was after that contact she became sick.

The family says Gabriella and her mother both got sick, as did a young boy around the same age as Gabriella who also lives in the housing complex.

The Fullerton family says Gabriella died several days after getting sick, as did her young friend. Gabriella's mother was sickened but recovered.

Loved ones have created a GoFundMe page to assist the Fullerton family with funeral expenses. 

According to health officials, E.coli are bacteria found in the environment, foods and intestines of people and animals.

While the bacteria are usually harmless, some strains can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, bloodstream infections and other illnesses. Children under 5 and older adults are more likely to develop serious illness, but anyone can be affected.

The disease-causing bacteria typically spread when particles of human or animal feces are exposed to the mouth. The particles usually come from unwashed hands, contaminated water or unpasteurized foods or livestock.

Symptoms vary but often include stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever usually less than 101 degrees. Most people get better within five-seven days. Infections range from mild to serious.

A health care provider should be contacted if diarrhea lasts more than three days or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, low urine amounts or vomiting to the point that liquid can’t be kept down.