HEALTH

E. Coli-Infected Fruit And Vegetables Kills 4, Sickens 96 In Guatemala

Daniel Rac, 5, looks into the coffin of his friend Carlos Enrique Rac, 12, who died by food poisoning in Santo Domingo Xenacoj, west of Guatemala City, Thursday, April 11, 2013.  Four people, including two children, died and 96 others were hospitalized for food poisoning after the victims ate fruit & vegetables that weren't properly cleaned in the town of Santo Domingo Xenacoj, said the fire department.  A doctor at one of the hospitals said the medical exams show the deaths were caused by E. coli bacteria. (AP Photo/Luis Soto)

Daniel Rac, 5, looks into the coffin of his friend Carlos Enrique Rac, 12, who died by food poisoning in Santo Domingo Xenacoj, west of Guatemala City, Thursday, April 11, 2013. Four people, including two children, died and 96 others were hospitalized for food poisoning after the victims ate fruit & vegetables that weren't properly cleaned in the town of Santo Domingo Xenacoj, said the fire department. A doctor at one of the hospitals said the medical exams show the deaths were caused by E. coli bacteria. (AP Photo/Luis Soto)

Investigators in Guatemala are trying to figure out how food poisoning killed four people, including two children, and sickened dozens in a town west of the capital.

The fire department said the victims ate fruit and vegetables that weren't properly cleaned in the town of Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  A doctor at one of the hospitals said the medical exams show the deaths were caused by E. coli bacteria.

I cannot even visit my wife and children in the hospital because I have to bury my other children.

- Local resident Julio Gervacio Rac

Jose Morales, head doctor at the town's health center, told The Associated Press that dozens of people had been treated there. In all, 96 people were taken to the hospital for treatment.

"We were able to identify the bacteria E. coli and these bacteria grew because of the poor hygiene in the food," Morales said.

Cases of food poisoning are common in Guatemala, with E. coli infections causing deadly diarrhea in children.

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A fire department official, Amilcar Zapote, said the sale of produce was banned Thursday in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.

Local resident Julio Gervacio Rac said two of his children died in the outbreak, and his wife and three other children were still at the hospital. He said the family dined Wednesday night on broccoli and eggs purchased from a local market.

"I cannot even visit my wife and children in the hospital because I have to bury my other children," Rac said at his home, where he held a wake for his children, ages 9 and 12.

Guatemala exports broccoli and cauliflower to countries such as the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Santo Domingo Xenacoj's mayor says farmers from the town export only avocadoes, zucchini and sugar peas.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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