Local News

Common Link Found In Growing UNC E. coli Outbreak

Posted November 9, 2006 8:39 a.m. EST

— A local restaurant has been identified by Orange County Health Department officials as a common link in a E. coli outbreak that has infected seven University of North Carolina students so far.

"Six out of the seven cases have McAlister's (Deli) as a common link," said Dr. Rosemary Summers, director of the department.

The management of the restaurant on East Franklin Street is cooperating with the investigation into the E. coli outbreak, Summers said, adding that there is no reason to avoid eating at McAlister's.

E. coli can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramps and is occasionally associated with severe complications, especially in young children and older adults.

Lab results are pending on three more people suspected of contracting the illness.

Interviews with students narrowed the source of the contamination to somewhere that happened between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25, since infections appear about 10 days after exposure and no new suspected cases have been identified in the last few days, officials said.

Even if officials can determine a source for the outbreak, they said they might not be able to pinpoint a specific item that caused it. E. coli can be introduced in a variety of ways, such as contaminated produce, improperly washed hands or an infected patron touching common surfaces, they said.