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Public Health director: Herkimer County victim of E. coli has recovered

By KIM DUNNE- Herkimer Telegram Staff Writer

September 27, 2007

HERKIMER - The Herkimer County resident suffering from E. coli after an outbreak in the Northeast is at home and has recovered well.

According to Herkimer County Director of Public Health Dr. Gregory O'Keefe, the female was hospitalized in Oneida County with a gastro intestinal illness and treated for an infection before it was determined that she, in fact, had E. coli.

“We knew about the other cases in New York that had been reported,” O'Keefe said. “Our patient had been to a picnic where Topps hamburgers were served.”

The Topps hamburgers are believed to be responsible for an E. coli outbreak in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. In New York, so far, six cases have been identified and three people have been hospitalized.

No deaths have been linked to the outbreak.

Topps voluntarily recalled 331,582 pounds of frozen ground beef products that were believed to contain E. coli. The infected patties were produced on June 22, July 12 or July 23 and distributed nationwide.

Price Chopper Supermarkets throughout the Northeast voluntarily removed Topps products as soon as the preliminary test results came back.

O'Keefe says that other people ate those hamburgers at the picnic that the female attended, but the difference was the way the meat was cooked.

“The error made was that the hamburgers were cooked directly from being frozen,” O'Keefe said. “Her hamburger was cold on the inside and undercooked.”

O'Keefe adds that even with proper cooking there isn't a gurantee that E. coli will be eliminated. However, whenever cooking beef it is always good to ensure it is cooked thoroughly.

“We all have to keep learning about keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold and about proper hand washing techniques,” O'Keefe said. “If the elderly or children get the bacteria it can be servere and result in kidney failure and/or death.”

E. coli generally causes intestinal illness that, for adults, can clear up within a week, but can be deadly for the very young, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. E. coli symptons include stomach cramps that may be severe, vomiting, diarrhea that may turn bloddy within one to three days, and as O'Keefe explained, in extreme cases the bacteria can result in kidney failure.

Consumers who bought any of the Topps hamburgers in question are asked to return them to the store where they were purchased.

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