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Outbreak of E. coli Has Officially Ended

State officials say they'll continue to investigate the source.

The E. coli O111 outbreak in northeastern Oklahoma is over, but the investigation isn't, state health officials said Tuesday.

"We've turned a corner," said Leslea Bennett-Webb, Oklahoma State Department of Health spokeswoman. "We're still investigating. But we really wanted the folks in Locust Grove to know that it's over, so maybe they can get back to normal."

State officials also wanted to assure Locust Grove residents that the outbreak was associated only with the Country Cottage restaurant.

"We've taken this so very serious because we had one death and so many people seriously ill, and a community that has been fearful," Bennett-Webb said. "It's been a challenge."

The last known person associated with the outbreak fell ill Sept. 6, she said.

"We may find new cases that haven't been reported, but there are no new occurrences," Bennett-Webb said.

At least 314 people were sickened from E. coli O111, a rare and virulent strain of the bacteria, officials said. One man died from the illness.

"We know with absolute certainty this is the largest E. coli O111 outbreak ever in the U.S.," Bennett-Webb said.

Sixty-five children were sickened and 72 people were hospitalized. Seventeen people received kidney dialysis, officials said.

State health investigators have interviewed 1,843 people as part of its investigation. All known cases were associated with the Country Cottage restaurant in Locust Grove, officials said.

"Virtually all known cases ate at or had an association with Country Cottage," Bennett-Webb said.

So far, only one case of secondary infection through household contact with someone who had eaten at the restaurant has been confirmed, she said.

"We are investigating the incubation period of a few more cases to determine if they might also be secondary infections," Bennett-Webb said.

Officials are continuing their investigation as to the exact food source that caused the outbreak. A team of three officials from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to return to Atlanta over the next few days and will continue to help state officials with the case.

"We're still looking at food choice selections based on those more than 1,800 interviews," Bennett-Webb said. "We're looking at dates and food choices for those who got sick versus those who didn't."

The information from all the interviews are entered into a database, and analysis of those interviews could take several weeks, she said.

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