E. coli bacteria ruled out as cause of girl's death Food-borne illness found not a factor

October 12, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A toxic strain of E. coli bacteria has been ruled out as the cause of death last month of an 11-year-old Taneytown girl, a Carroll County health official said yesterday.

That bacterium usually causes the symptoms exhibited by Kara L. Staley before her death, said Charles L. Zeleski, director of environmental health for the county Health Department.

But he said, "about one-quarter of the time, it is something other than the E. coli, other than this organism."

Kara died Sept. 24 at a Hershey, Pa., hospital of hemolytic uremic syndrome -- in which red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail.

Saying it was a standard precaution in such cases, county health officials analyzed five samples of food, both cooked and raw, from two county restaurants where the girl had eaten in the 10 days before her death.

Organism not present

But the dangerous strain of the E. coli -- 0157: H7 -- was not present either in the tests of the food or in the autopsy results, Zeleski said.

"The actual source of the girl's illness was not related to the E. coli," he said, although "it most often causes the symptoms that the girl had prior to her death."

"That's the bad strain," he said. "All the samples tested negative."

Zeleski would not identify the restaurants checked, saying only that they are in Carroll County.

'The extra step'

"We were doing this just to go the extra step, when we did all the testing," he explained.

He could recall no E. coli-related deaths in the county in recent history. The most common source of E.coli is undercooked meat.

Zeleski said he announced the results because news reports had mentioned the possibility of a food-borne illness, and "it was a loop that needed to be closed."

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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