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Investigators yet to find source of E. coli outbreak

May 10, 2007 | The Bakersfield Californian

No eating establishments or food items have been identified as a source of the recent outbreak of possible foodborne illness, according to a news release from the county Department of Public Health.

The release, which was issued Thursday afternoon, reiterated that the investigation is ongoing.

Specifically, strawberries have not been linked to the cases, the release said. A story in The Californian Thursday included a father who wondered if a batch of strawberries sickened his son, who was hospitalized with bloody diarrhea.

"There is no evidence regarding ongoing exposure, and parents can be confident in sending students to schools and going about usual activities," said Dr. Claudia Jonah, assistant county health officer, in the release.

The health department confirmed Wednesday that three children have tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, one of the most harmful and common strains, which was responsible for last fall's E. coli outbreak from spinach. Final confirmation is pending on the other nine cases.

E. coli O157:H7 can be spread in contaminated food or from person to person and can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, gas, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and fever.

Four children have been hospitalized with bloody diarrhea, County Public Health Officer Dr. B.A. Jinadu said. Three of those attend the same kindergarten class at Ronald Reagan School.

Two of the hospitalized children have been released, and two developed hemolytic-uremic syndrome -- a condition marked by kidney failure and seen in serious foodborne illnesses -- and were transferred to hospitals outside Kern County.

The 6-year-old Reagan kindergartner at Madera's Children's Hospital Central California has remained in good condition, which means his vital signs are stable and he is conscious.

While he hasn't regained any kidney function, the dialysis is starting to work, said the boy's father, who did not wish to be named.

"They are saying that he can still come back to 100 percent," he said.

Jinadu visited the boy and his family Thursday, the father said. And after talking to Jinadu, the boy's father understands why it took about a week for the department to respond to his family.

"I told him my concern was the amount of time it took to get the information out," the father said. "But I understand why their response took as long as it did."

The other child is hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The hospital is not releasing the child's condition at the family's request.


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