Stock Show still suspected in E. coli cases

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By Howard Pankratz
The Denver Post

Posted: 03/18/2009 12:01:21 PM MDT

A six-week investigation into the source of an E. coli outbreak that sickened more than two dozen people still points to the National Western Stock Show, a state epidemiologist said today.

"Thirty people became ill and we strongly suspect it originated at the stock show," said Alicia Cronquist, an epidemiologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

"We are trying to find out what they did at the stock show that made them sick," said Cronquist.

This includes which exhibits they visited, which shows they went to and which animals they touched, she said.

Of the 30 cases, 29 have been confirmed through laboratory testing as E. coli with the "same fingerprint," Cronquist said. The 30th case, she added, is a "probable case."

She said that 10 of the 30 cases are "secondary cases" where people who did not attend the show appear to have contracted the bacteria from someone who did.

Cronquist said the investigation is on-going and expects a public report to be issued in about two weeks.

Many of those who became ill were children.

The outbreak involved a serious strain of E. coli called 0157 H7, which is fatal in about one in 50 cases.

The children who contracted the E. coli were very young.

E. coli 0157 H7 can infect blood and kidneys and cause kidney failure.

Among the symptoms are abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, low grade fever, and vomiting.

Those with the E. coli live up and down the Front Range, including Denver, Jefferson, Adams, Arapahoe and Broomfield counties.

Officials have praised the cooperation of the stock show.

Pat Grant, president and CEO of the stock show, said at the time the investigation began that the show was "working proactively with the state to try to determine the origin of the E. coli outbreak."

Grant said that in its 102 year history, the stock show had never had a "prior instance of E. coli."

He added that the stock show has vigorously sought to take precautions to prevent E. coli outbreaks stemming from interaction with people and animals at the stock show. There are signs, he said, that ask people to wash their hands thoroughly, and there are handwashing stations near the petting farm at the show.




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