DAYTON (AP) - An E. coli outbreak that that began with people who ate at a southwest Ohio picnic has reached 68 cases, with three people in serious condition, health officials said today.
The illnesses were first reported in Germantown, about 15 miles southwest of Dayton, after a July 3 customer appreciation picnic for a lawn care business. Officials were interviewing people who ate at the picnic and later fell ill to try to determine how the outbreak started.
The E. coli bacteria can cause diarrhea, dehydration and, in severe cases, kidney failure.
Those who remained hospitalized today and were in serious condition included a 4-year-old girl, a 14-year-old boy, and a 73-year-old man. They have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can lead to acute, short-term kidney failure, Bill Wharton, a spokesman for Montgomery County's health department in Dayton, said.
Wharton said anyone with a weaker immune system, such as the very young or elderly people, can be more susceptible to the secondary infections. But a person's overall health and the amount of bacteria involved also are factors, he said.
More than a dozen people had been hospitalized since the outbreak, and 16 of the 68 who developed symptoms - including stomach cramps and diarrhea - have been confirmed by laboratory testing as having E. coli. Laboratory tests were not done on everyone who reported being ill, Wharton said.
E. coli is spread through contaminated food, but it can also be spread from person to person.