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5 More Cases Linked to E. Coli From Spinach

October 04, 2006|From a Times Staff Writer

A nationwide E. coli outbreak linked to California's coastal counties sickened five more people, bringing the number of cases to 192 in 26 states, federal officials said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, health investigators found that fecal samples from cows in pastures "right next door" to two Central California spinach fields tested positive for E. coli 0157:H7, a state health official said Tuesday.

"The real key here is to see if the strain of 0157:H7 matches up with the outbreak strain," said Kevin Reilly, deputy director for prevention services at the Department of Health Services. Tests to determine a genetic match will take about two more days, Reilly said.

If the strains match, investigators will need to figure out how the bacteria from the cow feces spread to the nearby spinach fields. Possibilities include irrigation water and roaming cattle.

Federal health officials last week lifted a warning against eating fresh spinach other than products that had already been recalled. The more than 40 brands had "best if used by" dates of Aug. 17 through Oct. 1.

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