PA Health Department Links Spinach Sample to National E. Coli Outbreak

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The Pennsylvania Department of Health has positively identified a sample of fresh bagged spinach that contains E. coli O157:H7, the strain involved in the national outbreak, State Health Secretary Dr. Calvin B. Johnson announced today.

Pennsylvania is the third state to find this strain of E. coli in a sample of fresh bagged spinach.

"This finding is important because it will help other state and federal public health officials better understand where the outbreak originated and what products were affected," explained Dr. Johnson. "However, until public health officials and food producers can be sure the E. coli risk is eliminated, individuals should not eat fresh spinach from the areas identified in the FDA recall."

The state health department's Bureau of Laboratories in Lionville, Chester County, identified the strain of E. coli in a sample of fresh bagged spinach purchased on or around Sept. 8 in Indiana County as matching the strain linked to the ongoing multi-state outbreak. The sample was taken from a bag of Dole baby spinach. Clinical samples from the individual who was believed to be sickened by eating the spinach are still being tested.

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In Pennsylvania, eight people in Allegheny, Berks, Colombia, Dauphin, Montour, Philadelphia (2 cases) and York counties have contracted E. coli in connection with the national outbreak. There have been no reported deaths in Pennsylvania.

A confirmed case indicates that the onset of illness occurred within the time period specified by CDC and the E. coli strains identified in the case were tested and match the strain involved in the national outbreak. The state health department continues to investigate additional cases to determine if they were caused by the outbreak strain.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, it has determined that the spinach implicated in the outbreak was grown in three counties: Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara in California. Spinach grown in the rest of the United States has not been implicated in the current E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. The public can be confident that spinach grown in the non-implicated areas can be consumed.

Consumers are advised not to purchase or consume fresh spinach if they cannot verify that it was grown in areas other than the three California counties implicated in the outbreak. Other produce grown in these counties is not implicated in this outbreak. Processed spinach (e.g., frozen and canned spinach) is also not implicated in this outbreak. The spinach industry is working to get product from areas not implicated in the current E. coli O157:H7 outbreak back on the market.

E. coli can cause diarrhea, often with bloody stools. Most healthy individuals can recover completely within a week. However, the very young and elderly are at a greater risk of developing a form of kidney failure called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), which can be fatal.

Daily updates on the number of outbreak-related E. coli cases in Pennsylvania are available on the PA Department of Health Web site at http://www.health.state.pa.us

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