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Health Officials Say Calaveras E. coli Cases Unrelated

The E. coli bacteria strains that infected three youngsters and three teenagers here are not the same.

Tests from the state´s Microbiology Disease Laboratory in Richmond show the DNA is different in the two clusters of cases. They are “coincidental,” Dr. Dean Kelaita of the county Health Department said.

The lab is run by the state Department of Health Services, which serves as a parent organization to the Calaveras County Public Health Department.

The tests also showed the DNA are identical within each group, Kelaita said.

The E. coli was food borne in the first cases of Nicholas Kristoff, 4, his infant sister Abigail, and a 3-year-old girl who attended day care at the Kristoff´s house. The Kristoff´s house is believed to be the connection, Kelaita said.

In the case of two Murphys´ brothers 14 and 17-year olds and a 13-year old boy from Angels Camp, showing livestock at the Calaveras County Fair is their common link.

All three boys exhibited steer and had stalls right next to each other. They shared space and the same implements for cleaning and tending to their animals, Kelaita said.

In 2002, three of four young people were thought to have contracted E. coli at the livestock area of the fair.

“There´s no proof that the E. coli was contracted at the fair,” Fair Manager Ray Malerbi said. “It is a fact they were all here and exhibitors showing animals at the fair. (The Health Department) couldn´t hang the hat on the fair as the connection. And (that) is leading us to believe that they might never be able to figure it out.”

“We feel we´re very proactive,” Malerbi said.

“The fair has taken preventative measures by installing hand washing stations and signage that instructs people on the importance of washing their hands, and they discourage eating in the livestock area,” Kelaita said.

“We are one of the more proactive fairs in the state,” Malerbi said.

“Knowing now what we know, there doesn´t appear to be a single source in the community that is still putting other people at risk,” he said.

But the investigation isn´t over yet.

A couple of tests aren´t totally conclusive and won´t be until today, Kelaita said.

The DNA test for two of the cases haven´t been confirmed, the three-year-old who received day care at the Kristoff´s and the 14-year old who showed steer with the two brothers.

Nicholas was the only severe case and was hospitalized after he developed severe kidney complications. He was released last Friday from Oakland´s Children´s Hospital where he had been since May 5.

“By nature of where we live and our exposure to livestock, there exists a small amount of risk,” Kelaita warned. Appropriate precautions should be taken, he said.

Those include routine measures like hand washing, cooking food well, avoiding unpasteurized juices and milks, and just good basic hand hygiene, he said.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com