Oklahoma E coli outbreak grows to 291 cases

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Sep 15, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – The number of people involved in a restaurant-related outbreak of an uncommon strain of Escherichia coli has risen to 291, including 67 who were hospitalized, Oklahoma officials reported recently.

Sixteen of the hospital patients have received kidney dialysis treatment, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reported in its latest official update on Sep 12. One person, a 26-year-old man, has died in the outbreak.

The illnesses have been blamed on E coli O111, a much less common strain than O157:H7, the variety usually identified in outbreaks. Oklahoma officials have said they believe the outbreak is the largest one involving O111 ever reported in the United States.

Most case-patients had eaten at the Country Cottage restaurant in the northeastern Oklahoma town of Locust Grove between Aug 15 and 17, the OSDH has said. The agency has not identified a specific food source for the outbreak, despite having interviewed more than 1,700 people.

Health officials also were investigating a church event that was catered by the Country Cottage restaurant on Aug 16, the OSDH said in the Sep 12 update. At least 30 of 250 people who attended the event at the Bethany Free Will Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla., reported they became ill with diarrhea or other, milder symptoms, the statement said.

In investigating the church event, the OSDH was joined by the Tulsa Health Department and a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency said.

An OSDH official said last week that because investigators had not identified a specific food source in the outbreak, they suspected that a staff member who handled many foods at the buffet-style restaurant might have been infected and spread the contamination.

The department said it did not plan to interview any more customers of the restaurant after Sep 12.

See also:

Sep 12 OSDH news release

Sep 10 CIDRAP News story "Unusual E coli strain sickens 231 in Oklahoma"

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