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Spokane E. Coli Outbreak Contained

February 25, 1998

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ An E. coli outbreak at a day care center appeared to be contained Tuesday after seven children were sickened.

Health officials said there were no similar outbreaks anywhere else in Washington.

A survey of day care centers throughout the state on Tuesday found no other clusters of cases, said Dr. Paul Stepak of the Spokane Regional Health District.

``We are the only place we know of where E. coli cases occurred in more than usual numbers,″ Stepak said. ``We don’t think we’re looking at a widespread outbreak.″

That’s good news in a state where three people died in an E. coli outbreak tied to undercooked fast-food hamburgers in 1993.

The number of cases of E. coli illness remained at seven Tuesday, health officials said.

But 15 people who have ties to the downtown YMCA day care are still being evaluated to see if they have the disease, said Dr. Kim Thorburn of the health district.

Officials still must contact 20 to 30 more parents, she added.

Health officials descended on the day care center Tuesday, interviewing parents and employees, and monitoring the handling of food, diapers and other routine matters to try and find a source for the outbreak.

No source has been found, Stepak said.

Thorburn said sanitary conditions at the center appeared adequate.

The most severely stricken child _ a toddler just short of 2 years old who spent a week in the intensive-care unit at a Spokane hospital _ was upgraded Tuesday from critical to serious condition.

The other six children _ ranging in age from 18 months to 6 years _ did not require hospitalization.

The day care center remained open Tuesday. Five of the seven victims attend the center, which serves 154 youngsters. The other two infected youngsters have relatives at the center, though only one’s illness has been linked definitely to the day care outbreak.

Most commonly associated with tainted meat, the bacteria also can be spread through contact with feces of an infected person.

Symptoms of infection include abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever, though some people can carry the disease without showing any symptoms, Thorburn said.

In extreme cases, the bacteria can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure and death.

The E. coli bacteria involved here appears to be O157:H7, the health district said.

That’s the same one that sickened 600 people and killed four _ three in Washington state and one in California _ in a 1993 outbreak linked to undercooked fast-food hamburgers.

That case prompted new federal safeguards intended to protect consumers from tainted meat, the most common source of E. coli bacteria.

An October 1996 outbreak of E. coli bacteria-related illness, traced to unpasteurized apple juice, killed a 16-month-old Colorado girl and sickened dozens of people in the western United States and Canada.

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