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Infection Toll Rises in E. coli Cheese Outbreak

Two new lawsuits were filed Wednesday as the number of confirmed E. coli O157:H7 illnesses linked to a gouda-style cheese rose to 33.

A Phoenix woman and parents of a young girl are suing Bravo Farms of Traver, CA,  the maker of the raw milk cheese.  The woman and child became ill after eating Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda Cheese samples served during a Costco promotion.

Costco announced a recall last week and notified its customers.  Bravo Farms recalled its product over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said two more cases of infection have been confirmed in California, four more in Arizona and two more in Colorado.

So far, the total of confirmed cases by state: 15 in Arizona, 10 in Colorado, 3 in New Mexico, 3 in California and 2 in Nevada.  Fifteen people have been hospitalized and one person developed a complication of E. coli O157:H7, hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), according to the CDC.

The 33 victims range in age from 1 to 81 years, the CDC reported in an updated investigation summary.  Onset of the illnesses was from Oct. 16 through 24.

The CDC said tests conducted on two opened packages of the Bravo Farms Dutch cheese, purchased at Costco from two different case patient’s homes, detected E. coli O157:H7 matching the rare outbreak strain.

Preliminary lab tests conducted on an unopened package of the cheese obtained from a Costco store also identified E. coli O157:H7, the CDC said.  Investigators are still trying to determine how the cheese became contaminated.

“First-rate detective work” by all the public health departments – and notably the Arizona, Colorado and CDC investigators– is credited for the quick identification of the outbreak source, said attorney Drew Falkenstein of Marler Clark, the Seattle food safety law firm that now has filed three lawsuits in connection with the outbreak.

Marler Clark is representing Shannon Miller, a Phoenix resident who tried a sample of the cheese on Oct. 17 or 18 at the Costco Warehouse at 1703 Bethany Home Road.  She became ill and was hospitalized for two days. 

The law firm also filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix on behalf of Rene and Bridgette Chavez, whose daughter ate a cheese sample on Oct. 15 at the Costco Warehouse in the Christown Spectrum Mall in Phoenix.

The girl fell ill on Oct. 17.  After days of unrelenting diarrhea and severe pain, she was rushed to the St. Joseph’s emergency room on Oct. 20 and then spent two days in the hospital.

On Monday Marler Clark filed a lawsuit on behalf of Annette Sutfin, a 27-year-old Phoenix social worker also sickened in the outbreak.

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