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DHS news release

Dec. 15, 2005

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (971) 673-1282

Technical contacts: Emilio DeBess, D.V.M., DHS  (971) 673-0980; Ron McKay, Oregon Department of Agriculture (503) 986-4727


Oregon E. coli O157 cases linked to Washington dairy

Three Oregon residents were sickened presumably by E. coli O157:H7 linked to unpasteurized milk from Dee Creek Farm in Cowlitz County, Wash., according to public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS).


Earlier this week the same dairy was implicated as the source of E. coli O157:H7 infection which so far has sickened eight individuals in Washington.  Four children remain hospitalized, according to Emilio DeBess, D.V.M., public health veterinarian in DHS.


The three Oregon cases are all members of the same family who drank milk from the dairy and who all seem to be recovering.  Laboratory testing is underway and the investigation is ongoing, according to DeBess.


"Raw milk can carry many germs, including E. coli O157:H7—which can be one of the most deadly," said DeBess. "It is far safer to drink pasteurized milk, which delivers the same nutrients."


E. coli O157:H7 can cause mild to severe intestinal illness, including abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea. Symptoms typically begin within three to five days after exposure. A few patients, particularly children, may suffer serious and potentially life‑threatening kidney damage, according to DeBess.


E. coli O157:H7 lives in the intestines of many animals, including cattle, and can get into the milk they produce. Pasteurization kills E. coli O157:H7 and is the best way to make sure milk is safe, DeBess said.


In 1993, 14 Oregonians became ill with E. coli O157:H7; those cases were traced to unpasteurized milk. In 1999, Oregon outlawed the retail sale of raw milk, with an exception for farms with three or fewer cows; however they cannot advertise and buyers must go to the farm to pick up the milk.