A rare and potentially deadly disease has popped up in the Kansas City area.
Recently there have been three cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, diagnosed and treated in Wichita, KS, and now one in Kansas City. Altogether, six have popped up in the Kansas City area and Wichita in the past few months.
HUS is most commonly contracted by eating contaminated foods.
Doctors believe Amber Newsome got HUS by eating tainted beef or a severe case of strep throat that put her at risk of dying from kidney failure.
"I thought I had the flu. I was vomiting every 10 to 20 minutes. I couldn't hold any fluids down," she recalled.
The 23-year-old college student was diagnosed in March. She missed an entire semester at the University of Central Missouri. She has returned to Warrensburg after being treated at St. Luke's East Hospital in Lee's Summit.
Her kidneys could be permanently damaged.
"Right now I'm just focusing on taking the necessary steps to take care of my health," she said.
Crystal Skram, of Kansas City, flew back home Saturday evening after an unexpected extended stay in Texas. What she got was caused by an infection with a certain strain of E. coli that then prematurely kills red blood cells and can cause kidney failure.
It's very rare with only a handful of cases popping up every year. But at least six people have been diagnosed with the disease recently in the Wichita and Kansas City area.
E. coli may be found in contaminated meat or produce as well as swimming pools or lakes contaminated with feces.
Skram, 20, believes she may have come into contact with E. coli from eating a deli sandwich. She began feeling sick weeks ago, but it didn't get serious until a trip to Texas, where she was then hospitalized.
She also said she thought it was a simple flu.
"It hurt really bad, like the most pain I ever experienced in my life and they finally took me to the ER," she said.
After some time and treatment in the hospital, she was told she is well enough to travel home.
"It's really scary because I didn't know what was going on and all I knew was when you deal with dialysis and transfusions, you're dealing with something pretty heavy duty and it was scary," said her stepfather, Steve Starks.
Dr. Radhika Mathur of HCA Midwest Health System said that it is a statistical anomaly to have so many cases in the area. She said it is possible that they are connected, but there is no cause for panic.
"I think this is unlikely to become a huge epidemic," she said.
Young children and elderly adults are the most likely to be seriously ill from hemolytic uremic syndrome.
"This disease, it is a kid's thing! I'm 20. Adults aren't supposed to survive. I think I'm on the edge, that's why I bounced back," she said.
One of the best ways to prevent the syndrome is to practice good hygiene such as vigorous hand washing.
Signs and symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome may include:
Sometimes neurological symptoms such as seizures develop as well.
Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences unexplained bruises, bloody diarrhea, unusual bleeding, swollen limbs, extreme fatigue or decreased urine output after several days of diarrhea. Seek emergency care if you or your child doesn't urinate for 12 hours or more.
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