More E. Coli Cases Linked to Gouda Cheese Sold at Costco

The same strain of <"">E. coli bacteria linked to 33 illnesses in five western states has been found in samples of Bravo Farms Gouda cheese sold at Costco stores. The outbreak involves a rare strain of E. coli O157:H7 that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has never seen before in its PulseNet database, a national pathogen-subtyping network.

On November 4, federal officials and Costco stores warned customers not to eat a raw milk Gouda cheese made by Bravo Farms, based in Traver, California. At that time, the CDC had received reports of only 25 illnesses in five states that had links to the product.

The E. coli cases are being reported in the following states: 15 in Arizona, 10 in Colorado, 3 each in California and New Mexico, and 2 in Nevada. The CDC said 15 of the patients were hospitalized, including one with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal kidney complication. Patients range in age from 1 to 81, with Oct 24 as the latest illness onset date. No deaths have been reported.

E. coli matching the outbreak strain was found in samples from two opened packages from two different patients’ homes, and preliminary tests from an unopened package from a Costco store were positive for E coli O157:H7, the CDC said. Also, tests on samples from opened packages from two more patients revealed E coli O157:H7, and more tests are under way to confirm the findings.

Federal investigators are testing more food samples, conducting traceback studies, and exploring the distribution chain to see where contamination could have occurred. The CDC said Costco is assisting with the investigation.

The Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda cheese, (Costco item 40654) was offered for sale and in cheese sampling events at Costco Wholesale Corporation (Costco) locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. Consumers in possession of this cheese should not eat it and should either return the cheese to the place of purchase or dispose of the cheese in a closed plastic bag, placing it in sealed trash can to prevent people or animals, including wild animals, from eating it. Costco is offering full refunds.

Most people infected with E. coli O157:H7 develop diarrhea and abdominal cramps, but some illnesses may last longer and can be more severe. While most people recover within a week, some may develop a severe infection. Anyone who experienced, or is experiencing, signs or symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection should contact his or her healthcare provider immediately. Healthcare providers should report any suspected infection to state or local public health authorities right away.

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