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Health and Family Services Cabinet
DPH Continues to Investigate E. coli Outbreak - Two additional cases

Press Release Date:  Monday, September 18, 2006  
Contact Information:  Gwenda Bond or Beth Crace, (502)564-6786  

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) reported today two additional cases of E. coli O157:H7 have been confirmed by lab testing and are being reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in relation to an outbreak of the illness in 19 states.

The newly confirmed cases bring the total number of people in Kentucky with cases of E. coli potentially related to the national outbreak to six.

The two newly reported cases involve females in their 20s from Hopkins County and McCracken County. Both have received outpatient medical care.

A teenage McCracken County resident and a school-age child from Jefferson County who were hospitalized last week have been discharged from the treating hospitals. One of the Oldham County residents, a female in her late 50s, remains hospitalized. The other affected Oldham County female in her late 50s received outpatient medical care.

For updates on the E. coli outbreak in Kentucky visit the DPH Health Alerts Web site at . Kentucky will report any additional cases to CDC daily by 1 p.m.; updates to the media will be available after that time each day. DPH will report all cases that meet the three criteria of CDC's case definition to be considered outbreak-related: occurring after Aug 1; lab confirmed E coli O157:H7; and matching genetic lab results.

At this time, DPH is recommending that consumers avoid the consumption of all fresh spinach and products that contain fresh spinach as a safety measure to avoid possible E. coli infection. This does not apply to frozen spinach products, or other fresh produce items.

 “E. coli infection is a serious threat to public health. As an added safety measure, we advise that consumers avoid all brands of fresh spinach and products that contain spinach for the time being,” said William Hacker, M.D., acting undersecretary for health for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and public health commissioner. “Additionally, physicians should report all E. coli cases, if diagnosed, to the local health department.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert last Friday about an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in multiple states that may be associated with the consumption of fresh spinach. State health officials are continuing to work with staff at the local health departments in counties with suspected cases to determine the source of the infections.

To date, 109 cases of illness due to E. coli infection have been reported to the CDC, including 16 cases of HUS and one death. Because illnesses continue to be reported, this is considered an ongoing investigation.

E. coli infections are relatively common, generally resulting in diarrhea, sometimes with bloody stools. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, some people can develop a type of kidney failure known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). High-risk populations such as children, elderly and immune-compromised individuals are often more susceptible to illness. The condition can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.

Prior to the cases reported in the past week, DPH data shows 12 reported E. coli cases in Kentucky in 2006 and 11 cases in 2005. These cases were not believed to be linked to packaged produce.

Though spinach is potentially linked to the recent outbreak of E. coli O157:H7, there are several other possible sources of E. coli. To avoid infection, the CDC recommends that all ground beef and hamburger be thoroughly cooked and not to eat ground beef patties that are still pink in the middle; if served an under-cooked burger, ask for a new bun and plate; in the kitchen, keep raw meat separate from other foods and wash hands, counters and utensils with hot soapy water after they touch raw meat; never place cooked ground beef on a plate that held raw patties; wash meat thermometers in between tests of patties that require further cooking; drink only pasteurized milk, juice or cider; and wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, especially those that will not be cooked.

If you believe you have experienced symptoms of illness after consumption of raw spinach, please consult your health care provider. If you have a question you may contact your local health department or the DPH Food Safety Branch at (502) 564-7181.



Last Updated 9/18/2006