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      E.coli cases may be linked to apple cider

      An investigation is underway into a possible link between several E.coli cases and apple cider in Antrim County.

      The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is working with the Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and Community Health to determine whether multiple local illnesses may be linked to the consumption of unlabeled, unpasteurized apple cider.

      Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) bacteria have been detected in stool samples from several Antrim County residents who developed severe intestinal illness and diarrhea during the past two weeks. Samples have also been collected to determine whether these cases may be linked to unpasteurized apple cider that was produced locally by an unlicensed facility and without the warning labels required by law for unpasteurized products.

      According to Joshua Meyerson, M.D., Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, apple cider - whether pasteurized or unpasteurized - should be obtained only from licensed facilities or vendors.

      "Shiga toxin-producing E.coli comes from eating foods contaminated with traces of human or animal feces," Meyerson explained. "This is sometimes associated with under-cooked meat, produce and unpasteurized cider or dairy goods produced without the necessary safeguards to prevent contamination."

      Meyerson adds that anyone experiencing abdominal pain and worsening or bloody diarrhea, especially those who may have recently consumed unpasteurized apple cider from an unknown or unlicensed source, should contact a physician. "Symptoms usually appear within three to 10 days following exposure," he said. "Young children and the elderly face greater risk of severe complications."