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Friday, June 20th, 2008

Five Ohio counties investigating cases of E. coli

No related illnesses have been reported in Grand Lake area

By Shelley Grieshop
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is aiding officials in five counties who are investigating 16 cases of E. coli that might be linked to cases in Michigan.
Although three cases of E. coli were recently reported in Auglaize County, they are not considered related in any way to the cases currently being investigated by the state, officials say.
The E. coli cases (type 0157:H7) under investigation were reported in Delaware County (one confirmed), Fairfield County (three confirmed, one probable), Franklin County (four confirmed, five probably), Lucas County (one confirmed) and Seneca (one confirmed). The investigation into the minor outbreak also includes officials with the state of Michigan and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to ODH spokesman Kristopher Weiss.
Ten of the 16 cases are linked by "genetic fingerprinting," which means they could have come from a common source. However, health officials have yet to draw that conclusion due to lack of information.
In May, an Auglaize County toddler was diagnosed with the E. coli bacteria and became gravely ill. The youngster contracted Hemolytic-uremic Syndrome (HUS), a serious side effect of E. coli, which can cause short-term kidney failure. The child was transported to Children's Hospital in Dayton for care. An update on his/her condition was not available at press time.
The source of the youngster's illness has not been determined but the type of E. coli he contracted was reportedly not the same as the current cases being investigated by state officials.
Auglaize County health officials - who often don't see cases of E. coli for years - also are awaiting platelet test information for two elementary-age sisters who contracted E. coli about the same time as the seriously-ill toddler. They are recovering. An investigation by officials revealed the cases involving the girls and the toddler were unrelated.
Symptoms of E. coli infection typically include diarrhea, which can be bloody and severe, and abdominal cramps two to eight days after infection. Anyone with these symptoms should see their physician.
Health officials advise the public to protect themself by washing hands often - especially before preparing food - cook ground beef to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and never eat undercooked hamburger that is pink in the middle.
Other common sources of E. coli include contaminated cutting boards, counters, dishes and silverware; unpasteurized milk, juice and cider; contaminated drinking water, lake or pool water; and unclean fruits and vegetables.
"We urge Ohioans to take steps to protect themselves against E. coli infection, not only now, but always," ODH Director Alvin D. Jackson said. "Ohio averages about 140 cases annually and prevention is of key importance to avoiding this serious infection."
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