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Oklahoma E. coli Restaurant to Reopen

Nov 20, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

ABC’s News Channel 8 in Oklahoma is reporting that Country Cottage—the Locust Grove, Oklahoma restaurant that closed this summer after being linked to a huge and rare E. coli outbreak —is preparing to reopen.  At the height of the outbreak, Country Cottage indicated it was considering remaining closed indefinitely.

The outbreak resulted in 314 people falling ill and caused the death of 26-year-old man, said Channel 8.  According to the report,  the state health department there gave approval to Country Cottage to resume business. 

The outbreak made headlines this summer because it involved the spread of a relatively rare E. coli strain—strain O111.  Generally, E. coli strain O157:H7—another serious form of the infection—is implicated in such outbreaks.  Channel 8 reported that, as part of the investigation, over 1800 people were interviewed and the exact cause of the outbreak remains under investigation.

According to the Channel 8 report, Country Cottage held an employee meeting earlier this week to discuss reopening.  Channel 8 said it was "told it's something that could still happen some day this week.  In fact, while we were at the restaurant today, we saw several cars pull up with people checking to see if they had opened.”  

ABC News Channel 8 also reported that the health department was at the restaurant last week taking samples for testing.  Tests came back negative, ABC’s Channel 8 noted.

The restaurant had to take a variety of steps in order to be allowed to reopen, such as participating in food safety classes, said Channel 8.  The restaurant also had to replace all of its hand washing sinks and was required to disconnect a water well.  The health department found bacteria in that well during its investigation, reported Channel 8.

NBC’s’s news site reported this summer that Country Cottage had its share of health violations and concerns over the years, and cited the restaurant's "88 health department violations since 2004.”  KJRH noted that the violations included “improper food storage,” “improper food temperatures,” and “cross contamination” violations (2005 and 2006).

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia describes “shiga-producing” (shiga is a type of toxin) E. coli infections—such as strain O111—as diarrheagenic bacteria termed “enterohemorrhagic E. coli” that are similar in path to that of E. coli O157:H7.  This means that these serious and sometimes deadly infections can cause symptoms that range from mild diarrhea to more profound watery or bloody diarrhea with severe abdominal cramping.  E. coli O111 can also result in the very serious hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  In the United States annually, these serious types of E. coli outbreaks sicken approximately 110,000 people and cause about 90 deaths, says the CDC.

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