Deadly Oregon E. coli Outbreak Linked To Fresh Strawberries

Oregon Public Health officials just identified the source a new E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has sickened 10 people and resulted in 1 death.

Fresh strawberries from a Newberg farm appear to be the origin of the cluster of infections, said the Oregon Health Authority. The farm, Jaquith Strawberry Farm, produced the strawberries in July when it completed its strawberry season. And, while Jaquith strawberries are no longer on the market, the Health Authority is particularly concerned with strawberries that have been frozen or made into uncooked jam.

Jaquith strawberries were sold to buyers, who then resold the fruit at roadside stands and farmers’ markets. Jaquith has recalled its products.

Health officials are urging consumers who may have purchased strawberries grown on the Jaquith Strawberry Farm to dispose of the potentially contaminated fruit.

“If you have any strawberries from this producer—frozen, in uncooked jam or any uncooked form—throw them out,” said Paul Cieslak, M.D., of the Oregon Public Health Division.

Berries other than strawberries; strawberries sold since August 1, strawberries sold south of Benton County or east of Multnomah County, strawberries sold in supermarkets, and strawberries picked at Jaquith Strawberry Farm’s U-pick field are not involved in the recall.

A single E. coli strain has been confirmed in the 10 people who were sickened in this outbreak and another 6 people in northwest Oregon have been diagnosed with E. coli. Those illnesses appear to be part of this outbreak, said the Oregon Health Authority.

Of the confirmed cases, four people have been hospitalized, and one elderly woman in Washington County died from kidney failure associated with E. coli O157:H7 infection. The outbreak involved 12 females and 5 males whose ages range from 4 to 85. All of those who fell ill reported being sick between July 10 and July 29.

The Oregon Public Health’s communicable disease section is collaborating with county public health officials and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

E. coli is a potentially deadly pathogen, and deadly strain 0157:H7 is certainly the most frequently occurring.

E. coli are a group of bacteria found in animal intestines and feces. While some strains are necessary for digestion; some are harmful, deadly, and toxin producing and part of a group of E. coli called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli, or VTECs, also known as Shiga-producing E. coli. Strain E. coli O157:H7 falls into this category and is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and, in the most severe cases, kidney failure.

The very young, seniors, and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

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