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Deadly E. Coli Outbreak


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A recent update in the outbreak of E. coli was reported today in 21 states, which now include Illinois and Nebraska.


At least 112 people have fallen ill because of the bacteria, and one was killed.


In some of the latest cases, a resident of northern Illinois has fallen ill of E. coli, and was immediatly hospitalized for kidney failure.


A Douglas County, Nebraska resident has also fallen ill by the same strain of E. coli, but was later reported to have not required hospitalization, and has since recovered.


Dr. Robert Brackett, of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said earlier today that "...we want to make sure consumers are aware that they don't consume any of the fresh spinach. We don't know whether it came from the bag or another state. We just don't have the focus down that much yet,".


Brackett also said that most major spinach producers were voluntarily recalling their products. Several grocery stores in major areas had taken all products containing spinach off the shelves.


"While the FDA does not have the power to order a recall, we are working closely with the producers to encourage recalls." Brackett said.


They do have the power to seize contaminated products, but Brackett said investigators can't do that until they determine the exact source of the contamination.


Investigators have blamed a death in Wisconsin on the outbreak, said Dr. David Acheson of the FDA.


The victims are believed to be infected with the strain of E. coli called 0157:H7, he told reporters in a telephone conference call Sunday night. Fifty-six were hospitalized, at least 16 with a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome Washing the leaves well will not necessarily offer protection, he said, noting that there is evidence that E. coli can get inside the leaf.


The FDA said Friday it linked the outbreak to products packaged by the California-based Natural Selection Foods/Earthbound Farm. The company initiated a voluntary recall of all its spinach products with "best if used by" dates of August 17 through October 1.


Asked whether terrorism or foul play may be involved, Acheson said he had seen no evidence to support that theory, but did not rule it out. "In my job, I always have to keep that in the back of my mind as a possibility," he said.


Symptoms of E. coli infection include diarrhea and vomiting, and the bacteria can lead to more severe complications, particularly in the very young or elderly, including anemia and kidney failure.

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