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E. coli death probe could take weeks

September 28, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - An investigation into whether a Washington County woman's E. coli death was part of a nationwide tainted-spinach outbreak might take longer than predicted.

"It could be several weeks," Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene spokesman John Hammond said Wednesday.

On Friday, he estimated that lab results might be known within a week.

Hammond would only identify the victim on Wednesday as "an elderly individual," but the Washington County Health Department has said the victim was a Washington County woman in her 80s.

Relatives of June E. Dunning, 86, of Hagerstown - who died on Sept. 13 of an E. coli infection and complications - have said she is the victim.

Dunning's son-in-law, Warren Swartz, has said she ate fresh, packaged spinach on Aug. 28 and 30 and on Sept. 1. She was hospitalized Sept. 2 with E. coli symptoms, Swartz has said.

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Last week, a state health official said specimens from the victim were "not ideal" for DNA fingerprint testing, so the E. coli source might never be known.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest update, posted Tuesday, said it had received reports of 183 people from 26 states infected with E. coli from fresh spinach. Maryland has three confirmed cases.

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