ANSAN/SUWON, June 25 (Korea Bizwire) — One hundred students and teachers at a kindergarten in Ansan, just south of Seoul, have complained of food poisoning symptoms over the past week, with about one third of them hospitalized for hamburger disease and other disorders, municipal health officials said Thursday.
According to the officials in Ansan, about 50 kilometers south of the capital, 100 out of 184 pupils and 18 teachers from the unidentified kindergarten have shown symptoms of food poisoning since June 16 and 31 of them have been sent to hospitals by Thursday. Most of the hospitalized patients are students.
They said 14 of the patients are showing signs of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), also known as hamburger disease, which can cause severe kidney failure, noting five of them with poor kidney function are undergoing dialytic therapy.
The remaining 17 patients are suffering from diarrhea, stomachache and fever symptoms, without exhibiting signs of HUS, they added.
The number of patients has been increasing since four children complained of stomachache on June 16. By June 17, 10 pupils exhibited symptoms of stomachache and diarrhea.
Authorities have collected samples from all 202 students and teachers for clinical analysis, while conducting separate examinations into 84 related people, including 58 family members and three food supplier employees.
Authorities have so far found hemorrhaging E. coli bacteria in samples taken from about 42 pupils and one teacher. HUS is one of the complications caused by E. coli bacteria.
They said 147 people have tested negative for the bacteria, with 96 others waiting for test results.
The authorities are now conducting further epidemiological research, suspecting the mass food poisoning may have been caused by lunch provided by the kindergarten.
The kindergarten has been ordered to close until the end of this month.
They also fined the kindergarten for failing to preserve some of its food ingredients offered to students in case of a food poisoning outbreak.
Meanwhile, the municipality of Ansan said another kindergarten in the city, about 10 km away from the first one, has also reported a food poisoning outbreak, which has so far affected eight students and one teacher.
Since Monday, the number of students and teachers with food poisoning symptoms has been steadily growing from the second kindergarten, where 167 pupils are enrolled, it said.
Lee Jae-jeong, the superintendent of Gyeonggi Province Office of Education, apologized and vowed a thorough investigation and measures to prevent such incidents.
“We will support every possible measure for children to receive treatment and recover from the disease,” Lee said. “I feel very sorry to the children and their parents.”