Health Department Unsure Of Source In E Coli Outbreak

Thursday, January 22nd 2009, 5:22 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

LOCUST GROVE, OK -- The investigation goes on into a wide-spread E-coli outbreak.  Last August, more than 300 people were sickened, and one man died, after eating at the Country Cottage in Locust Grove.  The Oklahoma State Department of Health now says it will never be able to determine exactly what caused so many people to get sick.

"She got so swollen.  We couldn't even tell it was her," said Jonathan Ybarra, Machaela's father.

Since Machaela became ill five months ago, her parents have wondered exactly what sickened their daughter at the Country Cottage.  The three-year-old has come a long way since spending 41 days in the hospital.  But, she still has to play alone.   

She can't be around other children during flu season because her immune system is too weak.

"There's days where she'll wake up with headaches, and days where her legs are hurting her real bad. There's different things you have to deal with on a daily basis," said her mother, Christina Ybarra.

Unfortunately, the Ybarra family will never know the source of their daughter's illness.

In a report set to be released next month, health officials will say they were unable to determine what caused the largest outbreak of E coli 0111 in U.S. history.

The state's epidemiologist says that strain of bacteria is almost impossible to trace.  She says it could have spread on any number of surfaces, or any number of foods, at the buffet-style restaurant.

"That's a little disappointing. We want to know what it was, where it came from, or what happened," said Jonathan Ybarra, Machaela's father.  "It's not anything we would wish on anyone at all."

Calls from The News On 6 to the Country Cottage were not returned on Thursday.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says it is disappointed it was unable to locate the source of the outbreak.