The onset of her illness was mid-September. The woman reported
eating fresh bagged spinach before the national outbreak was
announced on Sept. 14. She purchased the spinach at a local grocery.
She was hospitalized but did not get hemolytic uremic syndrome,
which is a form of kidney failure that can be associated with E.
coli O157:H7, especially in the elderly and the very young. The
spinach was unavailable for testing.
Last month, Dr. Eric E.
Whitaker, state public health director, warned about the outbreak in
multiple states of E. coli O157:H7, a specific strain of E. coli,
that was associated with the consumption of bagged spinach. Gov. Rod
R. Blagojevich, the Illinois Restaurant Association and the Illinois
Retail Merchants Association joined to reiterate their call to all
grocery stores and restaurants in Illinois to help prevent E. coli
contamination by pulling spinach and spinach-related products from
shelves and menus. The governor also sent a letter to members of the
U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions,
asking that they oppose a bill that would weaken the state's ability
to ensure food safety.
Since then, the Food and Drug Administration has determined that
the spinach implicated in the outbreak was grown in three counties
in California: Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara. Whitaker
advised that spinach sold in local farm markets from local growers
is safe to eat and is not part of the national outbreak.
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"Although the FDA has identified the source of the contaminated
spinach, we may still see cases of persons who ate the implicated
spinach before it was identified," Whitaker said. "Anyone who
experiences symptoms of illness after eating fresh spinach or
products containing spinach are urged to contact their health care
provider and local health department."
E. coli O157:H7 is a virulent strain compared with other strains
of E. coli. It causes diarrhea, often with bloody stools. Although
most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, some
people can develop a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic
The condition can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.
To date, almost 200 cases of illness have been reported to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including cases of
hemolytic uremic syndrome and one death.
Illinois Department of Public Health is working with the Centers
for Disease Control laboratory to test people suspected of being
linked to the outbreak. Health care providers with suspect cases may
submit stool specimens to the Department of Public Health laboratory
for testing after consulting with their local health department.
Department of Public Health news release]