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Filed December 1st, 2015 F.A. Kelley

Preliminary lab testing results link at least 19 E. coli infections in seven states to rotisserie chicken salad sold at Costco stores in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says infections have been reported in Montana, Utah, Colorado, California, Missouri, Virginia and Washington. Five of the infected people have been hospitalized, Reuters reports, but thus far, no deaths have been reported in the outbreak. Two people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure that can lead to permanent organ damage.

A Seattle food safety attorney says the current number of HUS cases is twice what is normally seen with E. coli O157:H7, the strain identified in the outbreak, Reuters reports.

In testing the suspected Costco chicken salad, the Montana Public Health Laboratory detected the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in a sample of diced celery and onion produced by Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. The diced vegetable blend was used in the Costco rotisserie chicken salad eaten by people who became ill. Laboratory evidence indicates that 14 (88%) of 16 people purchased or ate rotisserie chicken salad from Costco in the week before they became ill. On November 26, 2015, as a result of the testing, Taylor Farms voluntarily recalled a number of products containing celery because the foods may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

The CDC has advised restaurants and retailers not to serve or sell any foods containing the recalled Taylor Farms blend and the agency advises consumers not to eat the recalled products. An image of the label of the affected chicken salad can be seen on the CDC web site.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli strains are harmless and play an important role in a healthy human intestinal tract, according to the CDC. But some E. coli are pathogenic and can cause diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract.

The CDC explains that E. coli is transmitted by food or water contaminated with animal or human feces. Infection can be prevented by safe preparation of foods and beverages that could be contaminated with the bacteria, as well as by frequent thorough hand washing during food preparation.

The E. coli strains that cause illness can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons. Symptoms of the illness include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If the sick individual has fever, it is usually less than 101?F. Most people recover within five to seven days, but the infection can be severe or even life-threatening and some people develop kidney and other complications. Symptoms usually emerge three to four days after exposure to the bacteria.

HUS, the serious complication of E. coli infection, can occur in people of any age but is most common in children under five, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, pale skin tone, fatigue and irritability, small, unexplained bruises or bleeding from the nose and mouth, and decreased urination. The CDC advises people who experience these symptoms to seek immediate emergency medical care.





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