Peninsula E. coli outbreak wanes

Posted: Tuesday, July 25, 2000

Medical officials reported Monday that the E. coli outbreak reported last week may have peaked.

No additional cases have been reported officially since Friday.

"There are not any additional people who are ill," said Dr. Beth Funk, a medical epidemiologist with the state Division of Public Health's Epidemiology Section in Anchorage.

"The specimens that have been submitted are still being evaluated."

She cautioned that, because of the incubation period of the infection, new cases may show up any time up to eight days after the last possible date of exposure, which was Thursday.

On Saturday, Central Peninsula General Hospital in Soldotna released the last of three people hospitalized last week for the bacterial infection, which is associated with severe diarrhea. Three more pending test results at the hospital came back positive for the infection, raising the total cases confirmed at the facility to nine as of Monday morning, said hospital spokesperson Bonnie Nichols.

One other case linked to the peninsula outbreak was confirmed in Anchorage, but a second case there appears to be unrelated, according to a Epidemiology Section interim report.

The official state figures, which have not been updated since Friday, listed a total of 24 people reported with diarrhea that may be linked with the outbreak. Seven required hospitalization.

The first cases showed up July 11, and on Wednesday the state issued a public health alert.

Public health investigators traced the outbreak to the Mad Moose Cafe in Sterling, where the infected people had dined.

There was no answer at the cafe's phone Monday.

Brad Tufto, environmental health officer with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, is working with the cafe's owner, Leana Moore, to track down and resolve the food contamination problems. Moore closed the cafe voluntarily.

"The cafe is closed," Tufto confirmed Monday.

He praised the helpful attitude of the management and staff at the Sterling eatery. His understanding is that the cafe will remained closed until all test results and conclusions are finalized and then it will reopen, he said.

"They have been very cooperative, working with us," Tufto said.

The bacteria, named Escherichia coli, lives in the lower gut but some varieties, including the one detected during this outbreak, cause severe infections leading to bloody diarrhea or fevers. People can contract the germs from consuming contaminated food or water, with undercooked hamburger being the most common source.

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