June 24, 2008

E. Coli Cases Reach 16 in Central Ohio; 1 Source Likely in 11

By Misti Crane, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Jun. 24--Central Ohio health officials added another case of E. coli O157:H7 illness yesterday, bringing the tally for the outbreak in Delaware, Fairfield and Franklin counties to 16.

Eleven of the cases have been genetically matched, meaning they are probably from a common source.

Central Ohio's E. coli outbreak has been linked to one case each in Seneca and Lucas counties and to cases in Michigan, where health officials have implicated ground beef but haven't nailed down a specific source.

Federal health and agriculture officials are involved in the investigation.

Two food samples have been sent to the Ohio Department of Agriculture for testing, but results were not expected today, said Kristopher Weiss, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health.

Without identification of a specific source of the illnesses, it remains of utmost importance that people wash their hands often, scrub fresh fruits and vegetables carefully, cook food (especially ground beef) thoroughly and take other precautions to eliminate the risk of transmitting the bacteria.

"We're no closer to ruling anything in or ruling anything out than we were on Friday," Weiss said.

Michigan health investigators still hope to have an answer by midweek, said James McCurtis, spokesman for that state's Department of Community Health.

Cases were first reported in early June. The bacteria, which travel in feces, have sickened everyone from preschoolers to the elderly. Several people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been linked to this outbreak.

People infected with E. coli typically have abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which can be bloody and severe. Symptoms can appear two to eight days after infection. Those who have experienced symptoms should consult their doctors.

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