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DHS news release

May 27, 2005                               


Contact:  Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180

Technical contact:   Mel Kohn, M.D. (503) 731-4023


Public health officials investigate Yamhill E.Coli O157 outbreak

A cluster of E.coli O157 illnesses among people who attended a gathering at Camp Yamhill in northwest Yamhill County is being investigated by state and county public health officials.


As many as 120 people who attended a gathering there between May 17 and 20 may be at risk of illness, said Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS).


“We are actively investigating this outbreak,” said Kohn.  “We will continue to inform the public as we determine extent of illness and ultimately the source of infection.”


Anyone attending the camp on May 16 or after and who has diarrhea should contact their local health department; if they have bloody diarrhea they should seek medical care.  People with diarrhea should drink plenty of fluids, Kohn advised.


Symptoms of E.coli infection include diarrhea, often bloody, and cramps.  About 5 percent of cases develop kidney problems.  Children are particularly at risk of kidney complications from E.coli O157, which can lead to kidney failure and death, Kohn said.


E.Coli is easily spread from person to person.  Frequent handwashing, especially after using the toilet, can prevent spread.


DHS and six county health departments--Clackamas, Lane, Marion, Multnomah, Polk and Yamhill--are actively investigating the outbreak. 


The camp has voluntarily closed until the source of the illness is identified, Kohn said.


An average of 117 E.coli O157 cases have been reported each year in Oregon over the past five years.  Common ways of acquiring the infection include eating undercooked ground beef, touching infected animals, drinking unpasteurized milk, juice or contaminated water, swimming in contaminated water and contracting the illness from another person.