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5 more E.coli cases revealed in Wash.

Monday, December 19, 2005


VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Five new cases of E. coli have been identified among Dee Creek Farm customers, bringing the total who have fallen sick after drinking the organic farm's unpasteurized milk to 17.

The new cases were revealed after health officials interviewed the Woodland, Wash.-based farm's customers on Friday and Saturday. A Cowlitz County judge last week had ruled that Dee Creek owners Michael and Anita Puckett turn over a list of their 45 customers.

The interviews found that two adults and three children consumed unpasteurized milk products from the Dee Creek farm and had symptoms consistent with E.coli. None of these new cases were hospitalized and all are well or improving.Two children, who have been hospitalized for more than a week, improved Monday, said Marni Storey, the public health manager for Clark County Health Department. Three of the children, between ages 1 and 13, have been released.

Storey would not reveal the extent of the children's illness, but said the most common complication from E.coli in children is hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a form of kidney failure.

"They had severe complications, but as of today both kids are improving," she said. "We don't know the long-term consequences of this on these children. We hope for the best."

State laboratory results have revealed that all of the cases are linked, Storey said. A new method of bacterial DNA finger printing confirmed the cluster of E.coli cases came from consumption of unpasteurized milk from Dee Creek Farm. The Pucketts had questioned if the E.coli outbreak came from another food source. Storey said they are now waiting for the results from a milk test that would confirm the Dee Creek milk is the same strain of E.coli as found in the 17 ill people.

To date, there have been nine E.coli cases reported in Clark County, five cases in Cowlitz County, and three cases in Clatsop County, Oregon. Clark County is still investigating three other persons reported as consuming the milk and who may have been ill.

E. coli bacteria can cause diarrhea, vomiting or severe stomach cramps. Illnesses typically last two to 10 days, but can last much longer.

Storey said the Dee Creek cases should send a message that people should not drink unpasteurized milk, juice or other products.

“We are very concerned and our hearts continue to go out to the families with children who are still hospitalized. Our focus now is to do all that we can to prevent any more illness or hospitalizations,” Storey said.

Health officials urged anyone who drank unpasteurized milk products from the Dee Creek Farm or its shareholders within the last four weeks and has bloody or cramping diarrhea to contact their doctor or their local health department as soon as possible. In Clark County, call (360) 397-8182; in Cowlitz County, call (360) 414-5590.

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