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For Release: August 27, 2008
Contact: Larry Weatherford
Office of Communications

Situation Update No. 3
Outbreak of Severe Diarrheal Illness in Northeastern Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Health's public health laboratory has found a type of E. coli bacteria in 10 patient specimens tested as part of its ongoing investigation into a severe diarrheal outbreak in northeastern Oklahoma.

"E. coli is a common bacteria that lives in the intestines of animals and people. Many strains are harmless. However, our laboratory results indicate that we are dealing with an unusual type of E. coli that produces two different types of toxins. These toxins are responsible for the very severe disease that we are seeing in many persons sickened by this outbreak," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley.

"Now that we have confirmed that this is an E. coli outbreak, this information will help guide physicians in patient care and treatment," she said. Antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medicines are not recommended for treating E. coli. State health officials will send their laboratory specimens to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further analysis.

Bradley said this type of E. coli outbreak provides the potential for persons with diarrheal illness to spread it to family household members or close contacts. "Only a few bacteria can make a person sick and these bacteria can be easily transmitted person-to-person if infected persons do not wash their hands after using the toilet or changing diapers," she said.

Bradley also emphasized the importance of washing hands before, during and after meal preparation. "Persons with diarrhea should not prepare meals," she said.

To date, at least 41 persons have been hospitalized and one person has died. The incubation period from time of exposure to this type of bacteria to becoming ill can be as short as two days or as long as 10 days.

"While we cannot predict at this point how long this outbreak will continue, we believe we have prevented the spread of any further cases that may have been connected to eating at Country Cottage at Locust Grove, OK," Bradley said.

The restaurant continues to remain voluntarily closed today while the outbreak investigation continues.

For more information on E. coli, check out these Web pages: http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli and http://www.health.ok.gov.

Northeast Oklahoma Gastrointestinal Illness Outbreak Updates

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