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Illnesses at Iowa Taco Joint Tied to E. Coli Outbreak

Nearly three dozen people fell ill, including 14 who were hospitalized, with symptoms consistent with infection by the E. coli bacteria after eating at a Taco John's restaurant, a local health department said. Test results were expected Monday.

The Taco John's restaurant has removed any suspected ingredients from its menu and sanitized the facility, said Tom O'Rourke, the Black Hawk County Health Department director.

Brian Dixon, vice president of marketing for Taco John's, said the company had sent a representative to review cooking and food storage procedures, and to examine cleaning reports and employee health records.

Taco John's is based in Cheyenne, Wyo. It has no connection to Taco Bell, which has been linked to an outbreak of a harsh strain of E. coli that has sickened more than 60 people in the Northeast.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 61 cases in five states, most in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, plus one in South Carolina.

On Sunday, the New York Health Department confirmed that city's first case caused by the same strain of E. coli found in the other confirmed cases, spokesman Jeff Cowley said. That person was admitted to a hospital on Nov. 24 after eating at a Taco Bell, but has fully recovered, Cowley said.

Taco Bell officials said Saturday they had determined that scallions were the likely source of the bacteria. The company said it has switched produce suppliers.

E. coli, or Escherichia coli, is a common and ordinarily harmless bacteria, but certain strains can cause abdominal cramps, fever, bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, blindness, paralysis, even death.