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Lethal Outbreak in Oregon Linked to Strawberries

Food Safety News

by Mary Rothschild

Aug 08, 2011

One person in Oregon has been killed and at least nine others -- and possibly as many as 16 -- have been sickened in an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 linked to fresh strawberries from a farm in Newberg.

Oregon Public Health officials said Monday that the strawberries were grown at the Jaquith Strawberry Farm and sold to buyers who then resold them at roadside stands and farmer's markets. Jaquith finished its strawberry season in late July, and its strawberries are no longer on the market.

But health officials are concerned about strawberries that have been frozen or made into uncooked jam.

"If you have any strawberries from this producer -- frozen, in uncooked jam, or any uncooked form -- throw them out," cautioned Dr. Paul Cieslak, from Oregon Public Health Division, in a news release.

None of the following have been implicated in this outbreak:

  • Berries other than strawberries.
Strawberries sold since Aug. 1.Strawberries sold south of Benton County or east of Multnomah County.Strawberries sold in supermarkets.Strawberries picked at Jaquith Strawberry Farm's U-pick field.

Ten people have confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infection caused by the outbreak strain. They include residents of Washington, Clatsop, and Multnomah Counties. Six other people in northwest Oregon also have recently developed E. coli O157:H7 infection and appear to be part of this outbreak.

Of the confirmed cases, four have been hospitalized, and one elderly woman in Washington County died from kidney failure associated with E. coli O157:H7 infection. There were 12 females and four males among the cases, and their ages ranged from 4 to 85. They fell ill between July 10 and July 29.

Cieslak said people who have eaten the strawberries, but remain well, need take no action. The incubation period for E. coli O157:H7 is typically two to seven days.

Cieslak, who is manager of the Oregon Public Health's communicable disease section, said his team has been working with county public health officials and the Oregon Department of Agriculture on tracking the infection cases.

"If someone gets sick, we ask questions about everything from what they've eaten, to whether they've been to common gatherings, to whether they've been swimming in a particular place, and then out of this we try to find commonalities," he said. "The commonality among these cases has been strawberries at roadside stands and farmer's markets supplied by this one farm last month."

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