Yakima County, WA, has reported twice the average number of E. coli cases already this year, and health officials still haven’t been able to discover a common source of the bacteria. According to a Friday story in the Yakima Herald, 17 cases of E. coli have been reported so far in the county, which is the same number reported for the past two years combined. Since E. coli bacteria are found in human and animal fecal material, the high level of agricultural production in the Yakima Valley may somehow be involved. Typically the illness causes stomach cramps, vomiting and bloody diarrhea, although some people can develop serious complications from E. coli infection or even die from it. Sheryl DiPietro of the Yakima Health District said that investigators were interviewing everyone confirmed to have the illness, especially five people confirmed with E. coli in the past three weeks, about where they traveled and what they ate. County health officials are also waiting on lab test results, which can take several weeks, she noted. Meanwhile, health officials are urging people to wash their hands before preparing food and after using the bathroom, to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before eating them, and to thoroughly cook hamburger meat before consuming it. Anyone who develops bloody diarrhea is being urged to immediately consult a doctor. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a special website about E. coli with general information for the public.