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E. coli outbreak sparks warning about raw milk, ground beef

The E. coli outbreak in southwest Utah that has already killed two is growing, and public health officials there have warned people to avoid consuming raw milk or recently purchased ground beef.

Officials with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department initially reported six victims in a July 3 health alert. As of Tuesday, 11 victims had been confirmed. Most of the victims are children.

The source of the outbreak in Hildale, UT, remains under investigation, according to health department spokesman David Heaton who is quoted in local media reports.

Heaton told the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper on Tuesday that the public alert about raw milk and “recently purchased ground beef” is a standard warning and that there is not a confirmed link to such products. He also told the newspaper there could be multiple sources for the E. coli, or the original patient could have contaminated food or surfaces, resulting in additional people becoming infected.

The first victim was a 3-year-old boy who died in June. He and the other fatality, a 6-year-old girl, were not related but they lived in the same apartment building in Hildale.

The dead girl’s mother speculated in recent days that dirty diapers thrown in the yard of the apartment building could have been the source of the pathogen. She said a dog had torn up the discarded diapers and some residents had worked to clean up the mess before the illnesses began.

However, the health department reported Tuesday that the new outbreak victims did not live at the complex. The department has previously reported there are no signs of E. coli in the town’s water system.

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