E. Coli outbreak in Oregon linked to strawberries

PORTLAND, Ore Mon Aug 8, 2011 7:29pm EDT

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PORTLAND, Ore (Reuters) - An elderly woman died and at least 9 other people were sickened after eating fresh strawberries from an Oregon farm contaminated with E. coli, officials said on Monday.

The strawberries were produced at the Jaquith Strawberry Farm in Newberg, about 20 miles southwest of Portland, and sold at farmers' markets and roadside stands, said the state's public health division.

Officials stressed that strawberries sold at supermarkets are not linked to the outbreak, which has caused illnesses in several northwest Oregon counties.

An 85 year-old woman died from kidney failure associated with the infection, officials said. Among the other nine confirmed cases, four individuals were hospitalized.

State health officials believe that another six people who developed an E. coli infection could be part of the outbreak.

All the victims fell ill between July 10 and July 29, but Oregon public health officials did not begin their investigation until August 3, said Dr. Paul Cieslak, communicable disease manager for Oregon Public Health.

That is because sickened individuals must first go to the doctor, and medical laboratories must report the cases to the state.

"There is a lag built into the system," Cieslak said.

There are about 265,000 infections from E. Coli every year in the United States, and about 36 percent of them come from the strain known as Escherichia coli 0157:H7 that Oregon officials blame for this latest outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is no recall of strawberries from Jaquith Strawberry Farm, because that produce is no longer being sold.

But officials advised anyone who believes they may have bought strawberries from the Oregon farm to throw them away, and warned that fruits which have been frozen or made into uncooked jam are of particular concern.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Greg McCune)

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