Lynden girl, 3, dies after E. coli infection

A Lynden girl died last week after she was infected by E. coli.

Lab tests could help health officials to determine how Brooklyn June Hoksbergen, 3, contracted a deadly strain of the bacteria. She started to show symptoms about a week before she was admitted to Seattle Children’s hospital on Wednesday, Sept. 3, said Dr. Greg Stern, a health officer with the Whatcom County Health Department.

Brooklyn died at the hospital Friday, “in the arms of her parents,” according to her obituary.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 10, it was not known exactly how Brooklyn was infected, Stern said. E. coli is often spread through raw or undercooked meat, other unheated food that comes in contact with infected raw meat, contaminated raw produce or contaminated water — in lakes, ponds, streams or pools — that's swallowed while swimming or playing.

So far, there's no known link between Brooklyn's case and others around the Pacific Northwest, though the county’s health department expected to get test results this week that could either rule out, or suggest, a link.

A 4-year-old girl from Otis, Ore., died Monday after she contracted E. coli, likely over Labor Day weekend, according to the Associated Press. One of her friends, a 5-year-old boy, was still being treated at a Tacoma children’s hospital. Those two cases are believed to be connected.

To avoid infection, Stern urged people to wash their hands when handling raw meat, and after coming in contact with animals. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cooking meats thoroughly, avoiding unpasteurized milk, avoiding swallowing water while swimming, and washing cutting boards, counters and utensils to avoid cross contamination.

For more information on the public health risks, see the CDC’s Web page on E. Coli.

Signs of the bacteria include diarrhea that worsens over the course of a few days, and becomes bloody. Sometimes people get a low fever. Some strains, like the deadly E. coli 0157:H7, can be especially dangerous to children and elderly people. Antibiotics aren’t recommended, Stern said, because they can lead to kidney failure. Most often people show symptoms within two to six days of infection.

No one else in the Hoksbergen family caught the illness.

Everyone is invited to a memorial service at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 12, at North County Christ the King Church, 1816 18th St., in Lynden.

“She was a fun loving kid who loved to dance & sing and anything to do with pink and princesses,” reads Brooklyn’s obituary. “She tried her best to keep up with her 3 older sisters, and was a very smart, spunky girl.”

Friends set up a account for Brooklyn’s family.