Health officials investigating E. coli outbreak in Wellesley

Health officials are investigating an outbreak in Wellesley of E. coli, a bacterial infection that causes stomach distress and can be serious.

Wellesley public health director Leonard Izzo said officials believe three people have been infected, two seriously. At least one of those infected has been hospitalized, he said.

“We are still trying to identify the source of the infection,” Izzo said.

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E. coli bacteria are found in the intestines of people and animals, and most strains are harmless. But some, including a strain known as E. coli O157, can cause severe illness. The infection is usually caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with feces. The bacteria can also spread from one person to another, usually when an infected person does not wash his or her hands after going to the bathroom.

Izzo said the three people infected are adults and are not believed to be related.

“This is an active investigation and we are working closely with the state Department of Public Health on this,” he said.

State health department spokeswoman Anne Roach said disease trackers are trying to pinpoint the type of infection. She said the department has not heard of any other cases in towns surrounding Wellesley.