No new cases of E. coli have been traced to the downtown YMCA day-care center.
Eight cases of the sometimes fatal bacteria have been linked to the center, but only one child has been hospitalized. The 23-month-old girl remained in fair condition Thursday at Deaconess Medical Center.
Investigators from the Spokane Regional Health District again looked at food-handling at the day-care center Thursday.
But the food is prepared in a central kitchen for all 11 rooms in the center, and children in only three rooms got sick.
“It doesn’t fit very well with foodborne transmission,” said Dr. Paul Stepak, epidemiologist for the Spokane district. “It’s an odd picture. Nonetheless, we felt obliged to look closely at whether food-handling practices had a weak point. We haven’t found one, frankly.”
The E. coli bacteria often lives in the intestines of cows, sheep and birds. It can be spread to people when fruit touches manure, or when food is stored near raw meat.
But hamburger at the day-care center is cooked thoroughly. “Very well done, like boiled meat,” Stepak said.
It’s possible that a child brought in the bacteria from outside the center. Toddlers who stick their hands in everything from their diapers to their mouths could have spread the E. coli, Stepak said.
Everything is being checked. An inspector from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took a box of apple juice from the center on Thursday to have it tested.
“They don’t think it was a problem,” said Rich Wallis, executive director at the YMCA. “They just want to rule it out.”
The outbreak was publicly announced Monday. The center started returning to normal Thursday, Wallis said.
Except, of course, for the stool-sample kits that test for E. coli. The YMCA is handing out many of the kits. The samples will be sent to Olympia for testing.
So far, 36 samples have already been sent. All told, more than 100 people will be tested for the bacteria. That includes staff members, children with symptoms, family members with symptoms and any children who were in the same rooms as the sick kids.
“Everybody’s been keeping their fingers crossed that nothing new develops, and nothing has,” Wallis said.
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