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Suspected E. coli outbreak sickens 19 in Iowa


December 9, 2006

CHICAGO – At least 19 people have become sick with suspected cases of E. coli after eating at a fast food restaurant in eastern Iowa, local health officials said Saturday.

“What we have is suggestive of E.coli, but we do not at this point have a confirmatory test,” Tom O'Rourke, director of the Black Hawk County Health Department, said. Final test results are expected Monday.

He said 14 of the people who became ill have been hospitalized.

O'Rourke said he could not identify the restaurant where the people ate, but said it had been sanitized and all the food replaced.

An outbreak of E. coli bacteria linked to Taco Bell fast food this week sickened 63 people in six states, U.S. health officials said Friday. About 49 people have been hospitalized and seven have experienced kidney failure.

The Food and Drug Administration said it expected the number of confirmed cases to increase in the next few days, since a number of other cases were being investigated.

Shares of Taco Bell parent Yum Brands Inc. fell more than 2.2 percent Friday after an analyst downgraded the stock and raised concerns that the outbreak could have a significant impact on its sales.

Escherichia coli is a usually harmless bacteria found in the guts of animals, including humans. A new and pathogenic strain called E. coli O157:H7 was identified in 1982. It causes about 73,000 cases of infection and 61 deaths in the United States each year.

Most illness has been associated with undercooked, contaminated ground beef. But if contaminated manure gets into irrigation water or is used in fertilizer, it can get onto fresh produce or into the water supply.

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