E. coli has struck 32, officials now say

E. coli has struck 32, officials now say

Another E. coli infection was confirmed through testing on Friday, bringing the total number of people sickened in the St. Louis outbreak to 32, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

An additional illness linked to the food-borne disease outbreak was also confirmed on Friday but was not added to the total because it is considered a secondary infection.

Primary infections are those caused by ingesting food or liquid contaminated with the bacteria. A secondary infection can occur in people in close contact with a patient.

Health officials stressed that E. coli is spread through contact with infected fecal matter that may be contained in soiled bedding, clothes or diapers. The bacteria can also be spread through improper handwashing after restroom use.

State health officials believe the current outbreak started on Oct. 7. The investigation has focused on produce in Schnucks salad bars based on interviews with patients, but tests were negative for the bacteria on 55 food items collected from various locations.

The search for the source of the bacteria is ongoing, as federal investigators continue to inspect distributors and growers outside the state.

State health officials also said Friday that there had been no deaths linked to the current outbreak.

A 4-year-old boy from Wildwood who died Nov. 4 from complications of a reported E. coli infection is not connected to the outbreak based on analysis of the bacterial strain and because the boy became ill in August, health officials said.

About 12 to 15 children are treated for E. coli infections each year at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and most do not develop severe illness, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Isolated cases of E. coli are typically not investigated, and even in an outbreak the source is not always discovered, according to health officials.

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