Dan Peddycord, the county's health services administrators, said DNA "fingerprinting" on one of the local E. coli cases matched an outbreak in Washington that's been traced to parsley used at restaurants and grocery stores there.
Peddycord said the Washington outbreak was believed to have impacted two restaurants and a grocery store and that at least two positive E. coli cases were reported.
In Deschutes County, three cases of E. coli have been confirmed in patrons of McGrath's Fish House in Bend in the past week. The county is waiting for results on eight more possible cases, after more than 70 people complained of symptoms after eating at the restaurant.
Symptoms include diarrhea, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria, which can live in the intestines of healthy cows, spreads through consumption of undercooked meat or other contaminated food products.
The county is waiting on fingerprint tests of the other two confirmed E. coli cases to be certain the Bend strain matches the Washington state outbreak. Once test results are in on those cases, Peddycord said, his staff can continue tracking where the garnish was distributed in other states and determine if other outbreaks occurred.
If the outbreak was caused by parsley or another garnish, Peddycord said, it also shows that the restaurant was not responsible because of poor food-handling or hand-washing practices. McGrath's, a chain based in Salem, closed its Bend restaurant Monday morning to clean the facility and test employees for E. coli infection.
The majority of McGrath's employees have been tested for E. coli, Peddycord said, and so far none of them have been positive.
"It reinforces the idea that this came to the restaurant, rather than it originated with the restaurant," Peddycord said.