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E. Coli Bacteria Sickens 4,000

June 23, 1998

ORLAND PARK, Ill. (AP) _ A form of the E. coli bacteria lurking in a popular caterer’s potato salad caused more than 4,000 people to fall ill, health officials said. And in Georgia, a virulent form of E. coli sickened at least six children.

The Illinois case was the largest documented outbreak of the bacteria strain called enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli in the United States, Cook County Health Department officials said Monday.

The bacteria, known as ETEC and nicknamed ``traveler’s diarrhea,″ was identified in stool samples from three victims, said Dr. Stephanie Smith, the department’s director of communicable disease.

Officials from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were conducting tests to isolate the bacteria in the food or water at Iwan’s Deli and Catering in Orland Park, a Chicago suburb.

Although common in developing countries, the CDC in Atlanta has tracked just 14 ETEC outbreaks in the U.S. in the last 23 years, Smith said.

Meanwhile, health officials in Georgia were searching for the source or sources of a more dangerous strain of E. coli that has sickened six children _ ranging in age from 2 to 12.

Three of the children are suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening condition that affects the kidneys, according to the state Division of Public Health.

Authorities declined to identify the six children, but Atlanta Braves shortstop Walt Weiss confirmed his 3-year-old son, Brody, is among them. Brody was in serious condition suffering from kidney failure and intestinal problems. Two other children were in critical condition.

The strain of the bacteria, E. coli O157:H7, is the same one that killed three children and sickened hundreds in western Washington in 1993. That outbreak was traced to undercooked hamburgers served at Jack in the Box restaurants.

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