Fresh strawberries from a Newberg farm contaminated with E. coli have made ten people ill, one of whom died, the Oregon Health Authority has announced. This occurred in July and the strawberries came from Jaquith Strawberry Farm. The farm ended its strawberry season last month – there are no strawberries from that farm on the market at the moment, authorities say.

Authorities say Jaquith Strawberry farm recalled its products and is liaising closely and thoroughly with an ongoing investigation.

If you have bought and stored strawberries grown on this farm you should throw them out, Oregon Health Authority wrote on its web site. If E. coli (E. coli o157:H7) contaminated strawberries are frozen or made into uncooked jam they can still make people ill. The bacteria die if the produce is cooked.

Paul Cieslak, M.D., from Oregon Public Health Division, said:

“If you have any strawberries from this producer – frozen, in uncooked jam or any uncooked form – throw them out.”

Cieslak added that those who ate the strawberries but have no symptoms do not need to see a doctor. This E. coli strain has an incubation period of between two to seven days.

The following products have nothing to do with this outbreak and appear safe to buy and consume:

  • Other berries (that are not strawberries)
  • All strawberries sold from August 1st onwards
  • Strawberries sold east of Multnomah County or south of Benton Country
  • Strawberries for sale at supermarkets
  • Strawberries picked at Jaquith Strawberry Farm’s U-pick field

E. coli O157:H7 infection has been confirmed in ten individuals. Three from Washington, Multnomah and Clatsop counties and six in northwest Oregon.

Four of the infected individuals had to be hospitalized. An elderly lady in Washington County died from kidney failure linked to E. coli infection. The patients started having symptoms between July 10 and July 29.

Oregon Public Health’s communicable disease section has been working closely with the Oregon Department of Agriculture and county public health officials on tracking the cases of infection. Patients have been questioned in their quest to trace back the source.

Cieslak said:

“If someone gets sick, we ask questions about everything from what they’ve eaten, to whether they’ve been to common gatherings, to whether they’ve been swimming in a particular place, and then out of this we try to find commonalities.

The commonality among these cases has been strawberries at roadside stands and farmers’ markets supplied by this one farm last month.

E. coli generally inhabits the gastrointestinal tract harmlessly. However, some strains, such as E. coli 0157:H7 are carried by some animals that can infect food and water – the bacteria produce toxins that cause mild to severe intestinal illness, including diarrhea (which can be bloody), and severe abdominal cramps.

In some cases, the sickened patient develops complications and has to be admitted to hospital. About 1 in every 20 infected people with symptoms suffers complications, such as kidney damage, which can be life-threatening. Very young children and elderly individuals are especially vulnerable.
Doctors do not usually administer antibiotics for E. coli0157:H7 infection – in fact, antibiotics can cause kidney damage in such cases. Patients need to rest, drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and reduce fatigue.

You should wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating them. Make sure you keep all your fruit and vegetables separate from cooked foods. After handling raw foods, wash your hands with soap.

Written by Christian Nordqvist