Under attack

New York city battles with E coli bacteria

Published: Friday 15 October 1999

An outbreak of Escherichia coli (E coli) bacteria has affected around 750 people in New York. The number may exceed 1,000, says Antonia Novello, New York's health commissioner. Experts feel this outbreak could be much worse than the one in 1993, when 700 people were affected, four of whom died. The present outbreak has so far claimed two lives.

The cause of the outbreak has been traced to the Washington County fairgrounds in the district capital of Albany, where rain runoff from cow manure contaminated well water and infected hundreds who were attending the fair on August 28-29. The strain of bacteria responsible for the outbreak has been identified as 0157:H7.

The strain can be found in uncooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk and contaminated water. The symptoms which occur usually three days after exposure with a range of 1-9 days include diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fever. In children and older people, it may result in kidney failure, and in some cases, death.

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