1 Dead From E. coli Outbreak Traced to Oregon Strawberry Farm

An E. coli outbreak traced to fresh strawberries picked from a farm in Washington County has killed one person and sickened at least nine others, Oregon health officials said Monday.

The Oregon Public Health Authority identified the source of the outbreak Monday as the Jaquith Strawberry Farm near Newburg, located about 25 miles southwest of Portland.

Four people have been hospitalized. The fatality was an elderly woman from Washington County who died of kidney failure, the department said.

Six other people may have been infected in the outbreak, officials said.

Those infected are from Washington, Clatsop and Multnomah counties in northwestern Oregon.

This is the first time that the strain known as E coli 0157:H7 has been found in strawberries, said Dr. Paul Cieslak, manager of the state agency's communicable disease section.

The source of the bacteria is likely fecal material from a deer, and the farm does not appear to have been doing anything wrong, he said.

The strawberries were sold to buyers who resold them at farm stands and farmers markets, Cieslak said. The farm stopped production in July and its fruit is no longer on the market.

The farm recalled the berries and has been cooperating with the investigation, the health authority said. The farm did not immediately return a telephone call for comment.

The Oregon Strawberry Commission expressed its sympathy to those infected, but noted that it is an isolated case, and the fruit is no longer on the market.

Cieslak said health officials are concerned about strawberries from the farm that have been frozen, because freezing not kill the bacteria and could result in more illnesses later when people use the fruit. He urged people to throw out strawberries from the farm unless they have been cooked.

Officials said strawberries are safe if they were sold in supermarkets after Aug. 1 south of Benton County and east of Multnomah County. The farm's U-pick field does not appear to have been infected.