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9th Case of E. coli Confirmed in Finley Child

October 21, 1998

By Annette Cary

Herald staff writer

Another suspected case of E. coli poisoning was confirmed Tuesday, bringing the count of Finley children who have contracted the illness to nine.

Four of the children remained hospitalized, but were doing well, said Dr. Larry Jecha of the Benton-Franklin District Health Department. Two children were being transferred to Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, bringing the number of Finley children there to three, he said. They were being transferred as a precautionary measure, he said.

One child remained at Kennewick General Hospital on Tuesday.

The county health department also was investigating another case of E. coli poisoning that appears to be unrelated. The health department was notified Tuesday that a Kennewick woman in her 40s had been diagnosed with the illness but had no known connection to the Finley cases.

Health officials suspect ground beef served in tacos Oct. 6 at Finley Elementary School may have been contaminated with E. coli bacteria. The state Department of Health is investigating that meal and looking at an Oct. 8 meal that included prewashed, packaged lettuce.

The state has leftovers from the taco meal that it is testing for E. coli bacteria to see if it’s a genetic match for bacteria that sickened the children. There are no leftovers from the second meal.

The state also has checked the E. coli strain that poisoned Finley children against other cases in the state and has found no matching cases.

“It is not a widespread problem,” although that’s little consolation to Finley residents, said Dr. John Kobayashi of the state Department of Health.

County health officials are continuing to watch for secondary cases of E. coli infection – cases that have been spread from one person to another.

They are emphasizing thorough hand washing, particularly after episodes of diarrhea.

E. coli poisoning usually causes bloody diarrhea and can cause kidney damage.

Past outbreaks have been linked to unpasteurized apple juice, tainted water and contaminated, undercooked ground beef.

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