Montana state and county health officials are wrapping up their investigation into a recent E. coli O157 outbreak, and while the problem was reportedly narrowed down to a specific meal, the exact food ingredient which caused the illnesses remains elusive. The final outbreak totals were 38 people sickened with six hospitalized, according to Jennifer Fladager of the Dawson County Health Department in Glendive, MT. Those sickened were from 10 states and six Montana counties. The illnesses occurred following an annual reunion July 15-17 in Richey, MT, a town of about 200 people about 50 miles north of Glendive in the northeastern part of the state. Various food items served at the event were taken to the state lab in Helena for testing, but no specific food ingredient was identified as the source of the E. coli contamination. “We’ve narrowed it down to a meal, but due to a lack of samples and the way it was served, it wasn’t possible to identify the exact item,” Fladager said Wednesday. According to an Aug. 11 update from the Dawson County Health Department, which was posted on Facebook, all the individuals who became ill with comparable symptoms had attended an evening meal served July 16 at Richey High School. “Health officials are working with the caterer who provided the meal to determine how the meal became contaminated,” the Facebook post noted. The name of the caterer was not released. County health officials also thanked everyone who completed an online questionnaire and all the food vendors who cooperated with the investigation. As of Aug. 11, no additional E. coli cases had been reported, according to the department.
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