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First Death Reported in Disease Outbreak Linked to Fast-food Burgers

January 23, 1993

SEATTLE (AP) _ The first death was reported Friday in an outbreak of bacterial infection that officials say has sickened at least 85 people and is linked to a fast- food chain’s hamburgers

Two-year-old Michael Nole of Tacoma died at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center of complications caused by hemolytic uremic syndrome, a kidney disease.

Doctors said he had been infected with bacterium E. coli 0157:H7, commonly found in undercooked beef.

The boy fell ill after eating a cheeseburger Jan. 11 at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Tacoma, said his grandfather, Joseph Nole.

The death was the first in the outbreak linked to undercooking of contaminated hamburgers at Jack in the Box restaurants in Washington and in Boise, Idaho, said state Department of Health spokesman Dean Owen. Eighty-five cases of E. coli infections had been confirmed by Friday, with 65 more suspected. Most of the victims were in western Washington, although a few cases were reported in eastern Washington and Boise, Idaho. Officials said most victims ate at a Jack in the Box.

Five cases of E. coli infections involving children also were discovered in California’s San Diego County from mid-December to Jan. 13, some involving children who ate at Jack in the Box.

But Dr. Michelle Ginsberg, the county’s epidemiologist, said it wasn’t known if the children were infected by Jack in the Box food.

In Washington, 10 children remained hospitalized Friday, three in intensive care, said Children’s Hospital spokesman Dean Forbes.

The E. coli bacterium, often found in the feces and guts of cattle, can cause severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and death in severe cases.

State health officials said they found high levels of animal feces bacteria in two of 10 ground beef samples collected from several Jack in the Box restaurants in the Seattle-King County area.

After the problem became known earlier in the week, Jack in the Box increased the cooking time for beef patties at its restaurants nationwide.

Bob Nugent, the company’s president and chief operating officer, said Jack in the Box has recovered most of the contaminated patties and was trying to track down the rest.

Nugent said the contaminated meat in the Northwest cases was part of a November shipment Jack in the Box received from The Vons Cos. of Arcadia, Calif. Most of the burgers went to Jack in the Box outlets in Washington and Idaho, but some were sent to Arizona, California, Hong Kong and Mexico City.

Vons, which processed orders of boxed beef into frozen patties, said the contamination didn’t occur during processing. The meat came from three suppliers, Vons said.

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