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28 Sick in Wis. E. Coli Outbreak

June 18, 1998

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) _ An outbreak of E. coli that has been blamed for sickening at least 28 people in western Wisconsin has been linked to cheese curds, state health officials said Wednesday.

The outbreak appeared to be confined to two counties and officials advised residents there not to eat cheese curds bought since the beginning of the month.

Cheese curds are made from the curd, or the solid part of milk, that is separated from the liquid whey in the cheese-making process. A specific brand name was not identified.

The outbreak has sent about a dozen people to hospitals. One of the counties said those affected are between ages 2 and 80, with most patients over 21.

Sandy Chalmers, the state agriculture secretary, said officials are testing cheese curds from stores and the homes of the patients to find out what kinds may be to blame for the outbreak.

State Division of Health workers spent the day getting health records and food histories from patients ``to get all the pieces of the puzzle,″ Chalmers said.

The E. coli strain, O157:H7, is known to produce severe cramps, diarrhea that can be bloody, vomiting, nausea and fever. It strikes as many as 20,000 Americans a year and kills 500.

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