December 9, 2023

What is Source of Oregon HUS Cases?

Health officials in Oregon have not determined the source of E.coli poisoning that this month gave three children hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and killed one of them. In 2012, raw milk was the source of an E.coli outbreak gave three children HUS, one of whom required a kidney transplant. Twelve other children and four adults were also sickened in that outbreak which was linked to raw milk produced by Foundation Farm located in Clackamas County.

Teddy Bear Mouring the Loss of a ChildLab tests showed that the E. coli O157 isolates from eight of the patients matched isolates from samples taken from the farm and from some raw milk. The 15 children who were sickened ranged in age from 18 months to 19 years old. The 18 month old was one of the four patients who were hospitalized.

Raw milk laws are different in each state. In Oregon, retail sales of raw milk are illegal, but on-farm sales are legal, as are cow-share or herd-share programs. Those patients sickened in 2012 were part of a cow-share program run by Foundation Farm.

Although some people think it’s a health food, raw milk is considered a high-risk food by public health officials because it can contain dangerous bacteria, including E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, brucella, and salmonella. Children, whose immune systems aren’t completely developed, are most at risk for dangerous complications from food poisoning.

In the current outbreak, health officials believe two of the cases are linked.  The families of Brad Sutton, 5, and Serena Profitt, 4, spent time together before the children got sick. Brad remains hospitalized on dialysis, Serena died earlier this month.

A third case may also be related.  Aubrie Utter, 3, was adiagnosed with E.coli HUS kidney failure at the end of August. She was hospitalized for a week and underwent five blood transfusions.

A Washington health official says that  3-year-old Brooklyn Hoksbergen’s E.coli death is not linked to the Oregon cases. “The PFGE pattern of our case did not match the PFGE patterns of the Portland cluster and there is no epidemiological link between our case and the Portland cluster or any other reported cases,”  Greg Stern, M.D., a health officer for Whatcom County Health Department said in an email.

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