5 cases of E. coli at MSU linked to common strain

While the number of confirmed E. coli cases at MSU continues to rise, 13 more E. coli reports have surfaced across the state.

As of Wednesday, nine MSU cases had been confirmed as E. coli, while 21 other cases remain probable, bringing the total number of cases on campus to 30.

Five confirmed cases of E. coli strain 0157:H7 were reported at the Lenawee County Jail, said Susan Dice, a Lenawee County Health Department health educator.

Three cases were reported in Macomb County, while one case each was confirmed in Washtenaw, St. Clair, Wayne, Oakland and Kent Counties.

Ingham County Medical Director Dean Sienko said a report must first be confirmed as E. coli and then — after further DNA testing — can be linked to other cases of E. coli.

Thirteen cases statewide are linked to the common E. coli strain.

Five of the nine cases at MSU also are linked to that particular strain, bringing the total number of related infections across the state to 18.

“It suggests that perhaps something broader in the food supply system is causing a similar illness at different parts across the state,” Sienko said.

He said the number of cases at the Lenawee County Jail could provide a clue to the cause of the outbreak.

“What link is there between the Lenawee County Jail and Michigan State is an item of considerable interest,” Sienko said.

Although the number of cases on MSU’s campus has increased, Sienko said the outbreak is contained and no new cases have been reported this week.

He said 22 of the 30 MSU cases reported onset symptoms during the week of Sept. 7. The remaining eight reported symptoms, including bloody diarrhea, during the week of Sept. 14.

Sienko said he hopes to link more of the confirmed cases to the common DNA fingerprint pattern displayed in the 13 cases statewide.

“If they all come out to be the same, that suggests that they’re all linked to some common food item,” he said. “If they’re different, then it could be from something else.”

James McCurtis, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Community Health, said the cases elsewhere in the state have affected people ranging from ages 15 to 81.

He said a common food source is the likely cause of the outbreak and statewide investigation will help determine the exact source.

“It points to a common source, but right now we don’t know what that common source is,” he said. “We’re conducting tests with everyone trying to make sure that we get to the bottom of this situation.”

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