Father of E. coli victim: Nutritionist recommended raw milk

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POWELL, Tenn. (WVLT) -- James Zenker never imagined his young son would battle for his life at just two years old.

"It's affected his kidneys; they shut down," Zenker said. "It affected his intestines; he couldn't digest any of his food and its affected his brain -- he has a substantial brain injury."

His son William got E. coli after drinking raw milk linked to French Broad Farm. Zenker said a nutritionist recommended the raw milk to help William fight allergies.

"He's not able to speak and not able to do the same activities as before he was ill," Zenker said.

A total of 15 cases of E. coli were reported, and William is the last one left in the hospital. His father said East Tennessee Children's Hospital saved his son's life.

The Knox County Health Department said an investigation concluded that the outbreak was caused by two separate sources, the exposure to farm animals and exposure to raw milk.

"While it is rare, it appears we had two sets of children sickened by two different strains of E. coli O157 at the same time. The epidemiological evidence overwhelmingly supported the two-source theory: consumption of raw milk and some type of contact, most likely indirect, with ruminant animals," said KCHD Director Dr. Martha Buchanan.

William has had several blood transfusions during his recovery and still needs more. His home church Temple Baptist in Powell hosted a replacement drive Tuesday for William and the community.

"It's so encouraging to see people take time out of their busy day and donate from their own life to help Will and others affected by E. coli," Zenker said.