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Nebraska Probes E. Coli Outbreak

March 9, 1999

KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) _ A hazardous strain of E. coli bacteria has sickened at least six people, and six additional cases are suspected.

State health and agriculture had not yet determined the source of the infections.

The people affected ranged in age from 6 to 74, said state Epidemiologist Thomas Safranek. Two people were hospitalized, but he said they did not appear to be critically ill.

The contamination probably occurred about two weeks ago and could have involved just about any food, state Foods Division Administrator George Hanssen said Monday.

The bacteria was identified as E. coli O157:H7, a strain that in severe cases can cause kidney failure and death. Last November, possible contamination with that strain led to the recall of 600,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties from a Chicago processing plant.

The same strain sickened hundreds of patrons of fast food restaurants in the West in 1993; at least four died in that outbreak.

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