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5 Spokane Kids Sickened by E. Coli

February 24, 1998

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ Five children, including three who attend the same day care, have been sickened by E. coli bacteria. One was critically ill.

The critically ill 18-month-old was hospitalized, Dr. Kim Thorburn of Spokane Regional Health District said Monday. The others were not as sick and were not hospitalized.

The children range in age from 18 months to 6 years old, she said.

Of the five cases in Spokane, three are among the 154 children who attend the downtown YMCA day care center, Thorburn said. Another is the sibling of a day care attendee.

Officials do not know whether the fifth case, the 6-year-old, is linked to the others.

While E. coli is most often spread through undercooked meat, officials are not sure how the cases were spread at the day care, Thorburn said.

Rich Wallis, executive director of the YMCA, said health officials checked out the kitchen, the swimming pool, diaper changing areas and other facilities Monday.

``We have no clue whatsover″ what caused the outbreak, he said.

The day care center will remain open, although officials are taking greater steps to prevent additional infections.

An October 1996 outbreak of E. coli bacteria-related illness, traced to unpasteurized apple juice, killed a 16-month-old Colorado girl.

The bacteria can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney failure and death.

A 1993 outbreak of illness from E. coli bacteria was linked to undercooked fast-food hamburgers. It sickened an estimated 600 people in Washington state, most of them children. Three died.

That case prompted new federal safeguards intended to protect consumers from tainted meat.

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