File Photo | Huntley High School

At least nine E. coli cases, most or all of which involve students of Huntley High School, have now been reported as the number of cases in the outbreak continues to climb.

The McHenry County Department of Health (MCDH) initially reported last week six cases of Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli (STEC) involving students of the school.

They announced in an update Friday evening that a seventh case was confirmed.

The department said in a subsequent update Monday evening that it has identified two additional cases for a total of nine.

Officials did not specify whether the three newest cases involved students or staff.

Huntley High School Principal Dr. Marcus Belin sent an email to parents, staff and students last week about the situation.

“We are taking this situation seriously and are committed to the safety and well-being of our students and staff,” Belin said.

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The school has been working with the health department to connect with the families of the students who have been impacted.

The MCDH is continuing its investigation into potential exposures, both internally and externally.

The department said there is insufficient evidence to indicate the illness is associated with the consumption of a food item.

The source of the outbreak has not been identified yet.

“Due to the complicated nature of the investigation, with multiple potential exposures internally and externally, no confirmed source of the outbreak has been determined at this time,” the health department said.

Health officials are collecting data from multiple sources to be reviewed and analyzed.

“As E. coli is easily transmissible among individuals, it’s crucial to stress the significance of practicing good hygiene and frequent handwashing. HHS has implemented several proactive measures to keep students and staff safe that we wanted to make you aware of,” Belin said.

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The health department said it distributed a survey to students and staff of the school for case finding and data collection.

The survey has since concluded and the data is being reviewed by the department.

Science teachers taught students last week about E. coli and encouraged them to wash their hands frequently.

Handwashing signs have been posted throughout the building and hand sanitizer is available throughout the building in all classrooms.

Any student who has experienced symptoms of E. coli is asked to stay home and contact their medical provider.

Belin said students must be symptom-free for at least 48 hours before they can return to school or participate in activities.

Symptoms of the disease include acute onset diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps, fever and body aches.