Officials investigate 17 more possible E. coli cases at MSU

By Justin Harris
The State News
Published: September 21, 2008


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Although the number of probable cases related to an infectious E. coli strain on campus jumped to 23 last week, investigators from the Ingham County Health Department still have not determined its cause.

A number of students came forward to report symptoms related to an E. coli infection — including bloody diarrhea — after MSU sent out an e-mail asking anyone possibly infected to notify the county health department.

University Physician Beth Alexander said the additional cases were from the initial outbreak, not new infections.

“The good news is the number of cases coming in here were way, way down,” Alexander said. “Although the numbers looked alarming, that’s a result of trying to bring people in who had symptoms and evaluating them.”

Six of the 23 cases have been linked to the E. coli infection, and the remaining 17 are being studied, Ingham County Health Director Dean Sienko said.

DNA results could confirm additional E. coli infections as early as today, Alexander said.

Sienko said the department’s investigation has not yielded a definitive answer as to where or why the outbreak occurred.

“We have a number of staff who are doing very extensive food history interviews of many of the students involved,” Sienko said. “We expect to have results from that (today). We also expect to get additional laboratory information.”

He said the majority of infected and possibly infected students lived in East Complex residence halls.

East Complex is comprised of Akers, Holmes, Hubbard, McDonel and Van Hoosen halls.

“We’ve had very few (reports) from other areas outside the East Complex, and we’ve had a few students who live off campus,” Sienko said.

“I can’t determine at this point whether those are unrelated or whether it’s part of this. We’ll need further lab confirmation to see if any associations existed.”

Alexander said the infection is believed to be contained and does not pose a continuing threat, but determining a cause is difficult and requires public patience.

“I know many people are impatient with finding an answer, but that’s really not the right thing to do — to jump to conclusions and then have the wrong conclusions,” Alexander said. “It’s a very complex sort of investigation — much more so than other health issues we’ve had on campus.

“I’m optimistic that this coming week, as the data starts rolling in, it will point us to what really happened with this.”

Published on Sunday, September 21, 2008


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