State officials announced test results that confirmed deer as the source of E. coli O157:H7 that contaminated fresh strawberries in Oregon, causing one death and making at least 14 other people sick in July.
Oregon’s Public Health epidemiologist Katrina Hedberg reported the results in a news release Aug. 17. Six samples positively matched the E. coli that was found in the people who were infected, Hedberg stated in the release.
More than 100 samples were taken Aug. 6 from five fields where the berries were grown at Jaquith Strawberry Farm in Newberg, Ore. Those samples included deer droppings, soil and strawberry plants. Growers Joe and Jerri Jaquith have been cooperating with state officials, who have said that no sub-standard or problematic conditions were found when the farm was inspected.
Oregon health and agriculture officials remain concerned that some of the strawberries may remain in consumers’ hands. They repeated warnings Aug. 17 that uncooked strawberries used for “freezer jam” or frozen for later use should be thrown out. The strawberries were sold at roadside stands and farmers markets. Harvest at the farm ceased July 29.
“At this time, the Oregon Department of Agriculture believes it has identified those operators and locations that possibly sold Jaquith strawberries,” Hedberg stated in the Aug. 17 release. A list of the 57 locations and 36 vendors is on the department website.
This outbreak, which sickened people from July 10-29, marks the second time in Oregon that E. coli O157:H7 carried by deer has been implicated in human illness.
The bacteria is most often associated with beef and dairy products, but in 1997 Oregon epidemiologist William Keene confirmed that venison jerky was contaminated with the pathogen. Since that time, E. coli has also been confirmed in wild elk.